Hundreds of Creole legends will arise about when they were born and why these stories grew so much until they became immortal. The truth is that the veneration for “rural bandits” (whether we like it or not) is a deeply rooted custom among us.
Prototype of “Argentinidad al palo”, the mythical pantheon of idols and Creole “saints” outside the law is immense. John Baptist Bairoletto as an emblem, but also: Segundo David Peralta (“Mate Cosido”), Felipe Pascual Pacheco (“El Tigre de Quequén”), José Font, (“Facón Grande”), Antonio “Curuzú” Gil (“El Gauchito Gil” ), Olegario Álvarez (“El Gaucho Lega”), Isidro and Claudio Velázquez together with Vicente Gauna (“The Chaco Avengers”) or the adoptive Mendoza: “Gaucho Cubillos” to whom Governor Moyano put a price on his head and on his tombstone of the Mendoza cemetery can be read: “Martyr of the humans, his miraculous soul endures doing good to the humble”.
with common characteristics. rebels against the power of turn; always in love affairs involving a woman engaged to someone powerful; with an incredible ability to escape or escape; dying young. Also counting on popular support, which often turned them more into novel characters than into people who ran on the fringes of the law. Lying in a romantic profile, “idealized”, whose veneration was based on the justification that they fought against power.
His popular sanctification, with thousands of places for his worship, is also the result of his humble and countercultural roots; of her uprooting, where the Creole liveliness dribbled over the one she always commanded. But every rule has exceptions: Diogenes Recuero, “the still soul”. Millionaire, member of the jet – set, cosmopolitan, “playboy”, politician and mayor of the Mendoza department of Rivadavia who died suspiciously and at the same time his body appeared upright. No one from his family complained when they closed an old cemetery where he was buried. Any. But if his people did their thing: he made him his “holy protector”.
Bairoletto“son of his time”, whom no one killed
Holy to some. criminal to others. Basically: “(…) a bandit who could count on the solidarity of the countrymen and whom the poor of the countryside used to see as an avenger of the humiliations that the authority inflicted on them.” (Hugo Chumbita. “Rebel Horsemen”; Vergara – 2000).
His suicide gave way to immortality. That’s where the legend was born. It was more than 80 years ago (September 14, 1941) after a shootout with the police. Before the eyes of his partner, Telma Ceballos. At her ranch in Carmensa (San Pedro del Atuel) in General Alvear and with the crying of her daughters as cruel background music. To take more novelistic edges: he had been betrayed by his friend Vicente “el ñato” Gascón, who “sold” him to the police for a few coins and the promise to free him from a sentence that weighed on him.
“But nobody killed Juan. He committed suicide. I got up from the bed behind him, protecting the girls. I see that he shoots himself and begins to fall backwards, leans against the wall and falls to the floor. Then, the police entered and they threw him already dead on the floor. But no one killed him.” This is the testimony of Telma Ceballos.
“Son of his time”; this is how his grandson defines it, Fabio Erreguerena, also a Sociologist and Doctor of Social Sciences (UNC) who adds: “That type of people lived in the most absolute defenselessness. It was the time of the commissioner’s horse: there was no justice, the police were absolutely discretionary, the State did not come, there were no laws to protect them”. (Extracted notes from Milton del Moral).
“The Dorita is mine.” The beginning of the clandestine “gang on the run”
Milton del Moral’s story is a postcard from that Bairolettotwenty years before his death. “She falls in love and falls in love with ‘la’ Dora’, a prostitute from the brothels she used to go to when she didn’t mix her ideas in the committees and her coins in the gambling houses. Boyfriends, lovers or whatever. They don’t hide their urges from her. They make them public.”
There is a police corporal in Castex (La Pampa) who also prefers Dora: Elías “El Turk” Farach. Impotence blinds him, makes him sick. The harassment is appalling, unscrupulous. Leon Gieco tells it best: “He fell in love with the woman that a policeman was after / he was beaten, a certain Farach Elías put him in prison / ‘Go away from Castex (he told her). Here we have laws’ / It was the year 1919”. (“Rural bandits”. EMI. Musical album. 2001). “The corporal told him to stop seeing the dancer. He ignored it. The anger is such that the policeman decides to lock him in a dungeon. He strips him naked, hits him with a whip, tortures him. There are those who say that he summons Dora to witness the outrage. He tells him to leave the town if he wants to stay alive. The gaucho leaves. His wounds heal. The pride of him does not”.
The immediate outcome is predictable. Bairoletto He returned and killed “the Turk” Farach with several bullets in the nerve center of the popular concentration, the town grocery store.
They all saw it. The road will no longer return, Bairoletto (or also José Ortega, Francisco Bravo, Marcelino Sánchez or Martín Miranda, as he called himself in his life as a fugitive) will become the most wanted fugitive of the police.
His father died. “The sotreta will fall”
Hundreds of stories will cover the character. Believe or burst. “The Saint Bairoletto” or “San Bautista Vairoleto”; either with B or with V. It was him. The one who gave horses to children so they wouldn’t have to walk miles to school. The one who recovered dairy farms and farms for the peasants before the siege of the landowners and gave chickens to the gauchaje. The one who asserted his influence “before the doctor” (contradictorily he was a circumstantial bodyguard for politicians in the last years of his life) so that prisoners would be released. The one who robbed warehouses and distributed merchandise among the poor.
But there is a fact that increased popular idolatry. His father, Vittorio, had died, and the police organized an operation assuming that he would come to his wake. The ceremony lasted and Bairoletto it did not appear. “He is a coward and without dignity”; shouted a policeman among the relatives of the deceased. Nobody answered. Just prayers, tears and sobs. A woman with a child in her arms and another creature hugged around her waist will cry for hours on Don Vittorio’s drawer. As the procession departs for the cemetery, the woman quietly disappears. Two shots into the air fired the dead man from the other corner. It was Bairoletto, who from a horse and fluttering his woman’s dress confronted them as he had deceived them.
General Alvear. The time of calm, and of the calm that was not
After years of living in Indian tolderías, among the mountains or “on loan in a pigsty”, he will pause. He wanted to start over. He was already in his forties and was tired of being a clandestine. He chose Telma’s love and the town of Carmensa as his homeland. In those “payments” Alvear will call himself Francisco Bravo, as if changing his name would imply changing his life.
But again, history is relentless and the past has returned to its own devices. The novel of his life needed to write one more page: the betrayal of “Nato” Gascón. A new ambush and death awaiting his destiny. And death came and destiny was fulfilled.
He was one of the last “gauchos uprisings. A kind of “protector saint” and the belief made him a just avenger.
He was veiled in the committee of the Democratic Party of Alvear and is buried in the municipal cemetery of that town. His grave continues to receive hundreds of visits. Historians, tourists and the curious, but also many devotees of his holy pagan religion.
“But nobody killed him”; Telma said. Like he hasn’t died yet. It seemed that she was still waiting for him, while the popular imagination continued to venerate him. Books, movies, academic theses, short films, sanctuaries, candles, holy cards, monuments, songs, poetry, will immortalize him and give flesh to the legend.
Eric Hobsbawm (Alexandria, 1917 – London, 2012; historian) author of “Bandits” (1969), argued that “social banditry” is one of the most primitive forms of organized social protest and located this phenomenon universally in rural areas, when The oppressed have not reached political consciousness (“pre-political state”, literally, it maintains) nor have they acquired more effective methods of social agitation to confront the State and its agents, and where the ties of solidarity are based on kinship, territoriality and “idealization”. But Hobsbawm also says: “to become effective defenders of their people, bandits would have to stop being so.”
That was Bairoletto. Symbol of a romantic and contradictory deed (he worked for a time as a “political thug”). Exaggerated, if you will, from a popular perspective, it was a reflection of the traditional rebellion of the gaucho. Once again the hero and the villain coexist in social consideration. But undoubtedly, as Telma said: “No one killed him.” He is still alive and will continue to live as a legend.
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