By Andres Stapff
The Fiesta de la Patria Gaucha transcends Uruguay. Named that way in reference to borders that are cultural rather than political, the celebration includes communities from Uruguay, Argentina and southern Brazil; all regions that have a common past involving livestock, open plains and immense spaces.
The first smells of the Fiesta were harsh. Several calves had been slaughtered with their carcasses hanging from old-style hooks made of tree branches and leather straps. The bowels lay in blood puddles covered with big green flies, while men butchered meat and prepared innards for the barbecue. The participants’ sleeping quarters where constructed with age-old techniques using building materials that are no longer seen, such as mud, manure, straw and branches. The gauchos would sleep on the floor using part of their saddles as mattress and pillow. Nobody seemed to notice the flies, blood, offal or manure.