Guitar Playing Gauchos in the Andes Mountains
I was cold and carsick from the bumpy ride up the mountain. I felt ridiculous in my puffy coat and thick gloves, which I had to repeatedly take off and put back on, depending on how the sun hit me. I was in el campo, the countryside of the Andes Mountains, just outside Mendoza, Argentina, along with 30 other foreign exchange students.
We were invited to the countryside to meet some gauchos. Before that day, I had only read the word “gaucho” in clothing store catalogs advertising those awful pants that were so popular in the early 2000s and in cultural sidebars in my Spanish textbooks. Luckily, we were there to see the latter.
After the bumpy ride up the mountain, the real-life Argentine gauchos (cowboys) took us on a tour of their ranch.
We walked alongside their grazing goats, snapped photos of the views between the rolling hills, and were welcomed into their humble home. The small mountain cabin could not accommodate all of us, so they had set up a large tent outside, much like ones you might see at an outdoor wedding, except this one was made of cowhides woven together.
Under the tent, we were treated to a hearty meal. Seeing as we were in Argentina, the tables boasted several platters filled with meat. Everyone raved about the goat meat, but seeing as I had just seen the goat turning on the spit minutes earlier, and probably met one of its brothers on the hike, I declined to taste it. The homegrown potatoes and freshly baked desserts were more than enough to satisfy me.
The food may have been the main event for the other students, but the most memorable event was still yet to come in my eyes. As everyone nibbled on the last bits of their desserts, two of the gauchos walked out into the tent carrying guitars. For the next hour, we were graced with the beautiful sounds of traditional Argentine folklore, sung and played by two simple men living in the Andes Mountains. Their voices were beautiful, and they played wonderfully. The other students split their attention between the gauchos and their food, but my eyes were glued to the talented musicians. How well these men played guitar, considering they had taught themselves, stunned me. One of them performed so many trills in a row that I was sure he couldn’t be human.
The music truly brought me into the moment. I didn’t care about the cold and I wasn’t worried about the bumpy ride we’d have to take back down the mountain. In that moment, I truly appreciated how lucky I was to be there and to hear these men. I knew they were talented enough to record their music and sell it, but I also knew that neither of them would ever even consider such a thing.
I may not have an album to listen to, but I will always remember these lyrics from my favorite song of theirs: Yo no sé, yo no sé, yo no sé lo que pasó. No pue- no puedo caminar. Puede ser, puede ser que estoy emborracho…(I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know what happened. I can-, I cannot walk. It could be, it could be that I am drunk…)
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