As we have seen in The History of Uruguayan Meats, at the beginning of the 19th century in Uruguay there was abounding cattle, which ensured the population’s diet and was also the basis of the economy. Indeed, the diet of the Orientals consisted almost exclusively of meat. The horses were also abundant and all the inhabitants were good horsemen.
Far from the lofty urban airs and the popular celebrations of Montevideo´s working-class neighborhoods, gauchos and indigenous people dominated the countryside.
The gauchos were the typical inhabitants of the campaign and great connoisseurs from all corners of the region. The gauchos had a hard, wandering life and loved freedom. For those Europeans who visited our campaign at that time, the gauchos had a fierce appearance that caused them fear, although many of them acknowledged the kindness and generosity of the gauchos with the foreigner.
The spirit of that gaucho -half-breed, robust and stoic, able horseman and expert cattle herder- still reigns in our grass-lands. His courage and skill are the same as those proudly displayed by the gaucho of today in their daily fieldwork or their traditional celebrations, such as the Gaucho Festival in Tacuarembó or the traditional rodeos in the Rural del Prado in Montevideo.
The today descendants of the original historic gaucho: laborers, foremen, ranchers or landlords, tamers, and peasant singers, ride the vast pampas of Uruguay on horseback and dedicate their lives to the countryside and their daily work is very important for national production.
The comfortable saddle the gaucho fastens to his steed includes several garments of cowhide and soft sheep leather, a coarse wool blanket to protect the back of the horse, and braided girths and strapping. The daytime saddle turns into a bed when the night finds the rider outdoors. Reins and headstall, lace and braided leather bite, strong leather halter holding a fresh horse; all gaucho garments and tools that depict a weather-beaten life of long distances and wide expanses. The harshness of the environment is no hindrance for merriment and festive spirit. In barns or outdoors, on the ground or on a wooden box, there is always time for a party of “truco” (trick, trick-taking card game.).
The basic daily meal in the countryside is roasted beef or lamb, but parties such as rodeos, dinners usually include sweet pies, washed down with some wine.
Enjoying a bitter “mate” at daybreak, riding across the fields and traveling through streams amid wild fauna and flora. Preparing an open air campfire for slowly grilling the beef and then savoring it with a good wine are among the experiences that make you feel a part of our this memorable adventure, part of our history.