12. Negotiating Vernacular Authority, Legitimacy and Power: Creativity, Ambiguity and Materiality in Devotion to Gauchito Gil
Marion Bowman [+]
Antonio ‘de la Cruz’ Gil Núñez – more commonly known as Gauchito Gil – is the focus of considerable popular devotion, promissory prayer, ex votos, shrines and material culture in Argentina. In this article, I examine how vernacular knowledge and authority are materialised and operationalised in interaction with institutional models and local lifeworlds in devotion to Gauchito Gil. In relation to the material culture that has developed surrounding Gauchito Gil, and which is seen at its strongest at his shrine at Mercedes, Corrientes Province, I show how strategies of proximity, approximation and appropriation are used effectively as material means of bolstering Gil’s legitimacy and power alongside and beyond institutional understandings and models. Drawing on Primiano’s observation that the hallmarks of vernacular religion are ambiguity, power and creativity, this exploration of Gauchito Gil’s cult helps to demonstrate how materiality functions in conferring and transferring power, both creatively and ambiguously, to significant people without ‘institutional’ recognition or status in vernacular tradition.