Why are there red flags on roadside shrines in Argentina?
Throughout Argentina, you will find red shrines on the side of the road with red flags flying around them. These are shrines to Gaucho Gil. Although Gaucho Gil is not an official saint in the church, he is revered throughout the country of Argentina and is a “defacto saint”.
Although there are many unknowns about Gaucho, we do know his full name was Antonio Mamerto Gil Nuñez. He is affectionately known as Gauchito Gil, and was born in the 1840’s. He died January 8, 1878.
Gaucho was a deserter of the military who evaded capture for quite some time. During that time, he was a sort of “Robin Hood” figure, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.
When he was eventually captured and sentenced to death, he was hung upside down from a tree. As the executioner was preparing to behead him, Gaucho said, “Don’t kill me – my pardon is coming. If you do kill me, your son will be stricken with a deadly illness, and the only way to save him will be to give my body a proper burial.”
As expected, the executioner proceeded with his task and, when he arrived home, discovered that his son was deathly ill. He returned to the site of the execution and buried Gaucho’s body. His son was miraculously cured and a legend was born.
Now, Argentineans have built shrines throughout the country to venerate the memory of Gaucho Gil. The significance of flags and red color are unknown, but may have something to do with either the color of Gaucho’s political party or the color of the blood he shed.