I was lucky enough while at the farm to take a trip to Mercedes, which ended up being one of my best nights there. We had been out drinking with Romina and Daniel the night before, and they had invited us to go out with them the next night too. We got the bus to Mercedes, and they were at the station waiting for us. First off, they took us to the park, then to the Motocross circuit (kind of interesting so far), then next we went to the shrine of Gauchito Gil.
Gauchito Gil is a legend in Argentina. He’s a bit of a Robin Hood figure. He was a gaucho who had been called into duty for the Argentinean army, and thought in a number of wars for them with a number of neighbouring countries. After these ended, he was called into duty again, but this time it was a civil war. He refused to fight against his own people and retired to the countryside. From here, he would steal cows from the rich farmers and give them to the poor people. Eventually, the police caught up with him and he was sentenced to be hung. They decided to walk him from Giles to Mercedes before hanging him. This way everyone could see what a villain he was on his last walk. However, on the way to Mercedes, Gil told the police chief that his daughter was really sick and would die if they killed him. The chief wouldn’t have any of it, and decided to kill him right there. They hung him on the side of the road. When the chief got home his daughter was in the corner of the room, shaking. He immediately ran back to the hanging pillar and tried to revive Gil but he was dead. His daughter later died. From this point on, Gil was regarded as a legend. If you ever see red scarfs hanging up on the roadside they are most likely for Gil.
Better things were to come though. Behind the shrine was a bar, La Pulperia. It was packed inside. On the far side was 3 men. One was singing, the other 2 were playing guitars. We ordered some drinks and sat down. After each song, the line-up would change, someone different would start singing, an extra guitarist would join, a drummer every now again would accompany. They seemed to be playing a mixture of sambas, tangos, merengues, all kinds of different traditional Argentinean music. These guys were really good though, far better than the average busker, and you could see the amount of emotion they were putting into each song, and how much everyone in the bar appreciated it.
Later we found out that La Pulperia is an Argentinean tradition. This particular one is the only one in the province of Buenos Aires, but there are a few others dotted around the country. La Pulpería translates as the grocery. It’s a place where people would go to buy their grocery’s as well as trade corn and cereals. It became a meeting place for the community, and as people would often go their and wait for deliveries and the such like, they would bring a guitar or a drum along and would sing a song while they waited. When the deliveries came in the drivers would join in. They would trade songs. This way songs would travel all around the country, from pulpería to pulpería as everyone learnt each other’s songs. It’s good that people are keeping this tradition alive, and with such gusto too!
After that, we went for a picada. A platter of dried meats and cheese for all to enjoy. The jamon crudo is pretty damn special! It wrapped up a pretty good day, a real lesson in traditional Argentina.