The group went to a Gaucho ranch to experience the equivalent of a southwestern horse show combined with a vaudeville act (on Saturday.) The Gaucho ranch was about 1 hour outside of Buenos Aires. Gauchos used to reside in the pampas, an area in the south of Argentina where most of the farming takes place. (They still are called this, they no longer don their classical garb and traditions.) Gauchos were Argentine cowboys who led the life of the recluse until the concept of land ownership started to cramp their style. This forced the Gauchos to settle and work for a ranch boss to make their keep. The dances, the traditions, and the lifestyle are kept alive by artists and families who own "tourist ranches."
We started the visit with wine and empenadas. There was a museum that showed some of the housing that the ranch boss held as well as the furniture of the Gaucho. The Gaucho lived off of the land so their homes were made of dirt, cow skins, and furniture made from cow bones. (I should have taken a picture here, grr.) As part of the experience, tourists could either chill out, ride horses, or ride in a horse drawn carriage. I chose to chill out. Some of the group actually went out and rode horses nearby.
Then a clanging cow bell called us back from our various activities to eat and enjoy the main show. The food was very good. An infinite supply of sausages (chorizo and blood), meat, chicken, and what could be classified as a cross between a dumpling and a donut coated in glaze and decorative sprinkles. As always on this trip, there was also a large, but finite supply of wine and beer.
In our meat-induced coma, they started the show. First we saw tango, of course. Then some sad, traditional songs that had everyone sniffling. We couldn't understand the words precisely, but one of the group translated one key phrase: children without a future but burdened with a past. Sad. Very sad.
After this sad song, they brought out the Gaucho. There was a dance between Gaucho and his wife. Then the Gaucho showed off his skills using bolas, three weights tied together with leather to bring down an animal, similar to a lasso. This Gaucho dance with bolas was impressive, jumping around spinning the bolas faster and faster. Very impressive.
The afternoon ended with a horse show where the Gauchos paraded groups of horses around quickly showing off their herding skills. Finally, the Gauchos had a competition where they would try and grab a ring hanging from a post with a rod while riding a horse at full speed. When the Gaucho was successful, a woman would move towards the Gaucho and he would give her the ring for a kiss. Nothing for men here, but some of the women on our trip were swooning.