Even though it has been used all through the Rio de la Plata region and even in Brazil there is no true knowledge regarding the origins of the word “gaucho.” It is very likely that the word was transformed from a “quechua” (the quechuas were indigenous of the Rio de la Plata region) word: “huachu” – that means orphan and/or vagabond) by the Spanish conquistador who used it to call “guachos” to the orphans and “gauchos” to the vagabonds.
The Argentinean Gauchos
There is also the theory that the “criollos” and the “mestizos” begun to pronounce as “gaucho” the word “chaucho“, introduced by the Spaniards as a modification of the original arabic term chaouch or animal herder.
The name was used to denominate from an ethnic (not racial) standpoint, the people bred from Spaniards or criollos and the offspring of Spaniards with indigenous population or mestizos as well as the children of european immigrants, blacks and mulatos that accepted their standard of living.
The gauchos lived in the plains that extend from the Patagonia up to the oriental confines of Argentina, all the way up to the border with the Estado de Rio Grande do Sur in Brasil where they were called gaúchos.
Who are the gauchos, then?
The evolutionary process of the gaucho and the use of that word was developed without interruption. Different types of gaucho existed in Argentina before 1810, that is before being known by that name. Field laborers existed since the first estancias began to form , even if they were few at first. The third type – which then was called gaucho alzado – existed in small numbers. But they were not the pawns nor the primitive “outlaws” who gave the gaucho characteristics strong enough to draw attention.
Undoubtedly the gaucho type that had really peculiar physiognomy – the first to be named – was the nomadic gaucho, not a criminal, it was implicit in the eastern Gaudério s. XVIII. This gaucho was more than just a bum. Acquired in Argentina, along the s. XIX well-defined traits. And when enough spread – ie, as the population grew rural – was called gaucho, as also had called the eastern countryman s. XVIII.
Skilled horsemen and breeders, they were characterized by their physical prowess, their pride, their reserved and melancholy character traits.
Almost all tasks were performed on horseback, and this animal was always his best mate and all his wealth. The throwing of the lazo, the dressage and the rodeo, the voyages made by these riders, who made of the horse their best instrument. This Criollo (Creole) horse not only helped them fulfill the daily chores but helped them participate in the struggle for independence, immortalizing their name with legions of Guemes centaurs.
The gaucho was the man of our land, main stage of his legendary and real life. Always a solitary life be it in group tents like the nomadic tribes or be it in isolated rancheríos as in southern pampas.