Like all rural bandits, Martín Aquino challenged the political, social and economic order. He was persecuted by the government but rehabilitated to immortality by his peers, identified in their sorrows by that rebellion that not everyone dares to exercise. Martín Aquino, like Juan Moreira (1829-1874), Black Ant (1837-1918) and so many popular heroes, represented the unruly fantasy that we all have inside to escape the monotony of our gray existence.
Like many popular heroes, his beginnings were uncertain, although almost all versions maintain that he was born on the Rambla del Arroyo Vejigas, near Tala, in 1889. His mother was Francisca Aquino and his father unknown. It is known that he had a half brother named Fabián Pinela, an adventure partner.
They say that at the age of 15, Martin joined the homeland of Don Aparicio Saravia. They claim that he fought for the whites until he was captured and incorporated into the government army, ruled by the colorados. Barely a year later, he joined the Tala police station as a police officer, although he did not last long in the position. Martín Aquino’s life was not that of the barracks…
He did a bit of everything until he joined a ranch as a horseman. It didn’t take long for problems with the boss to appear, although the reason for the dispute remains uncertain… an inappropriate silver discount, an order given in the wrong way… the truth is that Martín Aquino took out the colt of the belt and let the bullets speak. Whether the boss died on the spot or did it long after, we will never know, but the insult was serious enough to force him to abandon his life as a ranch laborer and become a matrero. One day he would steal some lambs, the next he would get a few cows or later he would take some Creole pingos to the border with Brazil.
Aquino was well acquainted with the hidden paths of his homeland, the unknown paths that he plowed over and over again with herds or harnesses or escaping from the law.
The people who knew him respected and protected him. They knew who Aquino was: a man of few words whom fate had played a trick on… but they didn’t know that or justice didn’t care…
Aquino went on with his life, engaged in some harness where he demonstrated his skill with the lasso and in country tasks. He did not hide the name of him that he had already become famous for avoiding law enforcement officers so much.
Martin Aquino was not known as a woman, the man had no time for a partner, always persecuted by justice, running from one place to another. He only gave free rein to his virility with rented loves.
However, he continued working as a muleteer taking herds from here to there and when the time for pay arrived and they asked him who they had had the pleasure of dealing with, then he would answer in a clear and strong voice so that there were no doubts: “Ponciano Martín Aquino , to serve it”.
The police did not have much trouble finding his whereabouts, and in 1909 the man became involved in a ferocious shootout with a party where agent Juan Ojeda took the worst part. Aquino fled to Brazil but was captured and handed over to the eastern authorities. He served a year in prison in the Minas penitentiary for the two deaths attributed to him, but in 1913 he managed to escape.
Using his knowledge of the terrain, he vanished between blades and ravines. The authorities were warbling, an ignorant and bully gaucho seemed to be kidding them.
The Uruguayan press pointed out the incompetence of the forces of order, how come they could not find this man? This bandit had to be captured and, to this end, a party under the orders of Lieutenant Colonel Juan Ignacio Cardozo searched for him in Florida.
In the Horqueta de Arias they caught up with Aquino who was walking with his half brother. In surprise, a bullet grazed his neck and his shirt was bathed in blood. Everyone believed that the days of the matrero had come to an end… but they were wrong.
with his colt It hit Colonel Cardozo squarely, who was left lying full length and wounded Commissioner Román, who would die hours later. Aquino escaped in his boat, leaving a trail of blood, but no one wanted to pursue him.
New scandal in Montevideo, the press wondered how long this matrero would break the peace of the interior. No one could be safe with people like that running wild across the country. The government put the 2nd Cavalry Regiment under the command of Commander Klein to find his whereabouts; but Aquino dodged them.
What Aquino could not avoid was the admiration that he aroused among the gauchaje for this solitary war. In the field his figure gained in prestige, his feats – multiplied and exaggerated – filled the talks in warehouses and kitchens where his fugitive shadow was drawn. Fame caught up with him and Aquino realized he couldn’t keep bragging about his name and his lone figure. For a time Nepomuceno Saravia, whom he knew in his youth, gave him shelter and Aquino worked for the caudillo as a simple pawn. But no peace is forever and even less if the rumor spread that he was Nepomuceno’s man… The authorities followed him closely and to catch him they infiltrated a man among the people close to Aquino. The name of Judas was Nicomedes Olivera, who confirmed the identity of the fugitive and thus sealed his fate.
In Fraile Muerto, the police found Aquino accompanied by Roque Franco and the “indian” Melgarejo. The fight was uneven. Sixteen officers surrounded him and called out a halt, but Aquino returned the invitation with the bullets from his revolver. Melgarejo died in the shooting and Franco won the mountain. Aquino was left alone, firing at the soldiers until he had one bullet left, the one that already had an owner.
In his imprisonment days, between the four gnawed walls in the Minas prison, Aquino had sworn to himself that he would never, ever, have to spend a single day more deprived of his freedom and then he did the last thing he needed to become a singer and written word, in legend and mystery, in painting, in voices and images. Martin Aquino, the last matrero, shot himself in the throat.
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