San Antonio de Areco is in its full cowboy best during the annual Gaucho Festival in November.
In a tradition running 82 years, gauchos (cowboys) descend on the little town from all over Argentina to strut horseback along the cobbled streets in all their finery to celebrate the Fiesta de la Tradición.
The day celebrates the birth of famous writer José Hernández, a gaucho and author of the most famous book of the gauchoesque genre, Martín Fierro.
The main events take place on the edge of the town in Parque Criollo. 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.
There are activities the whole week but the main attraction is the jineteada gaucha.
With its origins in heart of traditional Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, the jineteada is the Southern Hemisphere’s take on the rodeo. The 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.
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 any trouble seems imminent there are plenty of mounted gauchos on standby.
If you go on the last Sunday of the festival you can watch the finale and witness the crème de la crème of the gaucho world.
On the closing day of the festival all the gauchos gather for a bonfire to celebrate the Día de la Tradición, eulogizing the life of writer José Hernández, famous for his epic gauchesque poem, Martín Fierro.
Across Argentina, some communities have the children dress up as gauchos and in traditional folkloric wear to parade and receive treats. 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.
Criolla Style Barbecue
There is plenty to see, do, and buy here on every day of the festival. The atmosphere 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 the 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 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 2021
Fiesta de la Tradición
Nov 20 & 21 2021
• Tickets to enter Parque Criollo: AR-$ paid at the entrance
• In the case of rain, gaucho events are delayed until the following weekend
San Antonio de Areco Travel Information
Read about Argentina’s most famous gaucho. The drunken but brave folk saint, Gauchito Gil