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The Legend of Argentina's Gaucho Gil

In Argentina, it's increasingly common for people to direct their prayers to the spirit of a 19th century "gaucho." Little is known about Antonio Gil, except that the cowboy was an outlaw who was probably executed by provincial authorities. But where history leaves off, religious devotion has taken over. NPR's Martin Kaste reports.

Legend has it that Gaucho Gil was a good-hearted outlaw who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Before his hanging, Gil is said to have pledged to become a miracle worker. Now more than 100,000 people come to visit a shrine at the spot of his death, where they leave offerings and seek miracles of their own -- from help passing a grade in school to cures for illnesses.

"There's no historical record of Gaucho Gil -- it's not even sure he ever existed," Kaste says. "But that doesn't stop these Argentines from entrusting him with their most fervent hopes -- and fears."

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Martin Kaste is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers law enforcement and privacy. He has been focused on police and use of force since before the 2014 protests in Ferguson, and that coverage led to the creation of NPR's Criminal Justice Collaborative.