Vintage Gauchos

Every now and again I offer up some vintage goodness that I happen to find as I trawl the Internet. I recently stumbled upon this trove of vintage photos from the Witcomb Collection of the Archivo General de la Nación [Argentina's National Archives]. While the collection contains a number of fascinating images, I found myself particularly drawn to photographs from the late 1800s  that illustrate Argentina's gaucho culture.

Like the cowboys of the American West, there's a rugged romanticism attached to the gauchos and the rough-and-tumble lifestyle they led on the Argentine pampa. The images in this collection offer a glimpse into that world.

Most of the photographs featured below were taken by Argentine photographer Francisco Ayerza. An enthusiast at a time when methods were still crude and quite challenging, Ayerza's love of photography inspired him to establish the Sociedad Fotográfica Argentina de Aficionados, the country's first amateur photography club. According to the book Culture and Customs of Argentina, his "…goal was to record and preserve through photography the daily life of both the city and the rural areas. Ayerza took a particular interest in documenting the traditional life of the gaucho and of country folk in general."

We owe a debt of thanks to early photographers such as Ayerza for allowing us to indulge in a bit of time travel.Ramón Tavieres, Estancia San Juan de Pereyra [Colección Witcomb, Archivo General de la Nación][A stunning image of Ramón Tavieres, the gaucho who oversaw Estancia San Juan de Pereyra in the province of Buenos Aires]

Payador a caballo, con su guitarra criolla en mano, by Francisco Ayerza [Colección Witcomb, Archivo General de la Nación][A payador—a gaucho minstrel of sorts—with his guitar]

Grupo de gauchos [c. 1860-1863] by Benito Panunzi [Colección Witcomb, Archivo General de la Nación][Music, asado and mate. In some ways, not much has changed since the 1860s.]

Gauchos en tareas de campo probablemente en Estancia San Juan de Pereyra Iraola, by Francisco Ayerza [Colección Witcomb, Archivo General de la Nación][Gauchos at work. The gaucho at the far left looks to be branding a horse, but it's tough to say what the paisano on the right is up to…]

Gauchos presos y policía a caballo, by Francisco Ayerza [Colección Witcomb, Archivo General de la Nación][Gauchos being hauled off by the police. Is it my imagination, or does the man on the far left have a bloody rag tied around his head?]

Grupo de gauchos sentados al borde de una laguna, by Francisco Ayerza [Colección Witcomb, Archivo General de la Nación][Relaxing by a pond. The dreamy reflections make this photo.]

Gaucho y paisana by Francisco Ayerza [Colección Witcomb, Archivo General de la Nación][Just a reminder that gauchos occasionally turned their attention to something other than cows and horses.]

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