In 2006, Argentina declared Martín Miguel de Güemes a “national hero” and created a public holiday in his honour to be held every 17 June. He was one of the key leaders of the war for independence against Spain and was a native of the province of Salta in the northeastern parts of Argentina.
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The date of 17 June was chosen because that is the day of Güemes’ death. He died after being shot in the back. He was able to make it back to camp before he died among his soldiers, the last words on his lips being, “To die for our fatherland is glory”. His men dealt the final defeat to pro-Spanish forces in Salta about a month later on 22 July, 1821, no doubt much inspired by their late leader’s dying example.
The main celebration takes place in Salta, Güemes’ homeland. Riders dressed in black-and-red outfits, like the gauchos of old who rode with Güemes, ride about the town a few days. On the last night, large bonfires are lit near the monument to Güemes by San Bernando Hill. It is a time to remember the past liberator and to be thankful for the freedom that such heroes as he have left to the present generation of Argentinians.