San Antonio de Areco is in its full cowboy best during the annual Gaucho Festival in November.
In a tradition running 83 years, gauchos (cowboys) descend on the little town from all over Argentina to strut horseback along the cobbled streets in all their finery for the Fiesta de la Tradición.
On the closing day of the festival all the gauchos gather for a bonfire to celebrate the Día de la Tradición, eulogizing writer José Hernández, famous for his epic gauchesque poem, Martín Fierro.
The main events take place on the edge of the town in Parque Criollo and around the Ricardo Güiraldes Gaucho Museum.
The festival resembles a grand scale country fair, not only because of the sheer number gauchos of all ages who gather for the spectacle but also for the nail biting excitement.
Alternatively you can take a day tour to San Antonio de Areco any time of year:
There are activities the whole week but the main attraction is the jineteada gaucha.
Visitors who go on the last Sunday of the festival can watch the finale and witness the crème de la crème of gaucho equestrian events.
With its origins in heart of traditional Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, the jineteada is the pampa’s take on the rodeo.
Young horses are tethered to a post, blindfolded and aroused to a fiery temperament, at which point a gaucho mounts.
They are then let loose and the gaucho must withstand between 6 and 15 seconds of bucking — or more if he’s got what it takes to become a local legend.
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The strength of both horse and man is impressive; they only have a leather strap to sit on and a single bit in the horse’s mouth.
If trouble seems imminent, there are plenty of mounted gauchos on standby and an ambulance.
Ring Races & Quadra Races
Another uniquely Argentine cowboy event is the ‘carrera de sortija‘ or ring race.
Gauchos mount horses and line up at the start.
They gnash down on a metal pin because they need full control of the feisty criollo horses.
They rush down the field at a full gallop and then raise themselves up, in an attempt to thread the metal pin through a metal ring with their free hand.
They then prance along on their horses in front of the crowds.
Winners trot their horses and hold up the ring to show they won.
There are also cuadreras, or ‘quadras’ 129 meter horse races that are popular for betting.
San Antonio de Areco is the epicenter of the action, but in rural areas throughout the country Día de la Tradición is honored as a day to teach children about Argentina’s early literature traditions and agricultural history.
In rural communities across Argentina, children dress up as gauchos in traditional folkloric wear to parade and receive treats.
Criolla Style Barbecue
The atmosphere of the festival is ebullient and the smell of the barbecue area finds you long before the sight.
The enormous queue of horsemen in the alfresco ‘restaurant’ is enough to draw anyone in, and it’s clear when you see the colossal low-to-the-ground grills that there is a queue is for good reason.
When confronted with a large dining table-sized area of various cuts of meat it’s easy to panic order.
Don’t be afraid to ask the parillero (grill chef) for a recommendation, although the lomo con salsa is hard to beat — steak is taken straight from the parilla and soaked in mushroom and red wine gravy and then crammed into a French baguette.
This is likely to be the most tender and memorable steak you will find in Argentina, at modest country prices.
In the evenings, there is an outdoor peña folklorica where the cowboys and visitors dance the night away.
San Antonio de Areco Tradition Festival 2022
Fiesta de la Tradición
Nov 12-13, 2022
• Tickets to enter Parque Criollo: AR-$ paid at the entrance
• In the case of rain, gaucho events are delayed until the following weekend
→Have a gaucho experience during the Tradition Festival
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Read about Argentina’s most famous mythical gaucho: Gauchito Gil