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Gaucho

Fishburn and Hughes: The name for horsemen of Spanish, Negro and/or Indian blood who lived in the River Plate provinces and were known for their poverty, bravery and love of freedom. Traditionally nomadic, the gauchos worked in open cattle-ranching, but with the advent of wire fencing in the nineteenth century their free-roaming life came to an end. Today the term has connotations both of extreme bravery and laziness; the gaucho has become a literary, almost a mythical, figure. The etymology of the word is uncertain, and its interpretation can be taken as a barometer of the political climate. According to one theory, the word was originally guacho, from the Mapuche huacho, meaning orphaned, destitute. More recent research maintains that it originated in the border area between Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, and means a deserter and cattle thief; it is still pronounced 'gaúcho' there, and may stem from the Guarani caúcho, meaning a drunkard. Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius