The Roadside Adoration of Gauchito Gil
I pedal up the path and see it—the tree fluttered in red, its branches banded in wishes, tied higher than the small, see-thru box mounted at head height on the trunk. When the wind gusts, it must carry prayers as it carries stories, wave them in a frantic dance like the flap of flags that the little boxed gaucho, mustached, tucked inside, must understand. His hand clutches las bolas, arm about to spring, swing, and release, entangle any runaways; though his own sought body is stilled, captured, finally, by the shrine. By likeness but not in effigy. Elevated this time by the tree that holds him. Strung with red venerating beads. Festooned with plastic flowers. It's the fifth altar I've laid eyes on today. The others I'd scanned from my brother-in-law's car in the drive between Cruz del Eje and San Marcos Sierras, where my husband's mother lives. They were easy to spot: clumps of red ribbons, trees tangled with gratitude for favours granted. When I'd pointed to one of the shrines, my brother-in-law had said: We are a people whose passion has nowhere else to go. Then he'd claimed that even Messi thanked Gauchito for his World Cup win.
What makes sense to me as I look at this replicating altar, this channeled passion, this community-erected art, is the desire for something to hold in the hand. Not to keep, but to throw. A flung hope, like a human life, or the soul's leap into outlawry. Rejection itself a kind of makeshift faith, a push forward without plan or replacement. Perhaps the replacement is just living—making it up as one ambles on. Maybe passion must wander, not unlike the sainted fugitive folk hero behind the figurine. Who else could be bold enough to grant wishes, I think as I stand before the miniature homage, my bicycle laid at the roots of this rough road.
Read an ekphrastic story by Angela Sucich, The Things We Grow.
Angela Sucich holds a Ph.D. in Medieval Literature from the University of Washington. Her poems and short prose have recently appeared in such journals as Nimrod International Journal, Cave Wall, and Whale Road Review, and in 2021, she was honourably mentioned for the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. In 2022, her chapbook, Illuminated Creatures, won the New Women's Voices Chapbook Competition and will be published in 2023 by Finishing Line Press.
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