The train approached the Villa Berthet station, in Chaco. It wasn’t carrying common passengers but gendarmes who were crouched in the carriages, waiting, nervous. Matte Sewn he did not know that he had been betrayed and that the Gendarmerie had set a trap for him. Even his nickname seems like a trap: The newspapers of the time titled it “Cooked Mate” (with “c”, as the infusion), but when transcending the reason for its nickname -a scar on the forehead- they turned to Sewn Mate.
On December 22, 1939, his gang had kidnapped Jacinto Berzón, manager of a ranch. They asked his family for 50,000 pesos in ransom with these instructions: on January 7, 1940, before the train arrived at Villa Berthet, at a signal they had to throw the package with the money out of a window.
On the appointed day, Mate Cosido and “El Tata Miño”, a buddy, made the signal with a flashlight and the train slowed down. From a window they threw a package (it had newspaper clippings) and the bandits approached confidently because the darkness protected them. Suddenly, a flare illuminated the place. Mate Cosido remained motionless with the .45 in his hand.
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The gendarmes got up and fired Mauser carbines and Ballester Molina 38 caliber pistols at everything that moved. At the same time, they discovered a Colt 7.65 heavy machine gun that was covered with a tarp in a low, roofless car.
A bullet hit the backpack that “Tata Miño” was carrying and he was saved, but the boss felt that his hip was burning. They had hit him and he was exposed right in front of the machine gun. There was a click, and another, and another. The artillery gendarme turned pale. He had Mate Cosido at his mercy, but in the rush they had forgotten to take the safety off the machine gun. Mate Cosido limped away. Screams and more shots. The number one public enemy of the Chaco had escaped.
The story of Segundo David “Mate Cosido” Peralta
Segundo David Peralta used seven false names in his life but He had only one alias, Mate Cosido, because of an oblique scar on his forehead, on the right side, one centimeter long, which was left when they sewed up the wound. That is what it says in his Gendarmerie record, which is numbered one. He also says that he was 1.65, that he had brown hair, with a “frontal receding baldness.” His lips were thin and he had big ears. The years in the Chaco forest would darken his skin, make him lose two teeth and make him thin.
Chaco would only be a province in 1951. In the 1930s, the Gendarmerie acted in that territory. And what that file does not say is that the Gendarmerie was established and organized in the north with the objective of catching Peralta, a company promoted by the firms Bunge y Born, Dreyfus, La Forestal (the English monopoly of red quebracho) and the owners of many ranches, whom Mate Cosido stole, accusing them of exploiting the worker.
The Gendarmerie could not fulfill its mission. The one on the Villa Berthet train was the last time they saw him. When he escaped the ambush, Mate Cosido became a legend – that of the benefactor bandit – and also a mystery – what happened to him? – never solved.
Peralta was not from Chaco. He was born in Monteros, Tucumán, in 1897. He had five siblings. After finishing elementary school, he worked in a printing press. He was curious and liked to read everything that fell into his hands as well as listen to stories from the countryside.
It is curious that Peralta and Juan Bautista vairoleto, the other famous rural bandit of those years, had problems with the authorities for the same reason. Peralta was dating a girl who was also interested in a police officer. Vairoletto, in Santa Fe, was courting a young lady whom a corporal liked. The two ended up the same: it is said that they invented crimes to get them out of the way. Vairoletto killed the corporal and dedicated himself to banditry; Mate Sewn began to steal for real. They both left their families and lost their girlfriends. Vairoletto went to La Pampa and Mate Cosido, to Chaco.
Unlike Vairoletto, who assaulted at will and depending on the occasion, Peralta was calculating and planned the blows in detail with the information that the laborers, prostitutes or some corrupt policeman gave him. His gang was made up of about 15 men, including Pascual Miño, alias “El Tata Miño”, Eusebio Zamacola, alias “El Vasco”, Mauricio Herrera, alias “El Indio”, Antonio Rosi, alias “El Calabrés”, and Pedro Fitz, aka “El Alemancito”. With them, he assaulted trains and companies. Also to travelers, payers and producers.
He hid in the Chaco mountains and in Santiago del Estero and Tucumán. In Córdoba, he had a fortress-type villa where his wife, Ramona Romano, and his son, Ricardo Fernando, lived.
Mate Cosido, a unique case in the crime scene
His image in the Buenos Aires press was that of the bandit who protected the poor. Peralta is a unique case in the crime scene because he used to write to a Buenos Aires magazine to deny the Gendarmerie reports and tell his version of the assaults. The journalistic chronicles were signed by the author of the robberies. He said that the real thieves were his victimswho exploited the Argentine soil and the peasants.
The historian Hugo Chumbita affirms that Mate Cosido and Vairoletto met. They were introduced by mutual friends, anarchists. Where? In a Buenos Aires brothel in Barracas or in a Masonic temple of the Hijos del Trabajo lodge, at San Antonio 814, also in Barracas.
Vairoletto was in civilian clothes. Peralta, in a black suit. They say they sympathized, that they agreed to operate in the Chaco against the company La Forestal. They toasted to “anarchy and the distribution of land to the chacareros.”
Sewn Mate and Vairoletto
The first joint assault was in March 1938. They assaulted the manager of Quebrachales Fusionados, a subsidiary of La Forestal. The next hit was a disaster. It was ten o’clock at night on May 10, 1938, the bandits surrounded the establishment that La Forestal had at Kilometer 25, but they were waiting for them and the butler Oscar Mieres died in the shooting. Vairoletto believed that there was a snitch among Peralta’s men and returned to the south.
Mate Cosido wrote a letter to the magazine “Ahora” where he said: «Another gift is the death of the butler Mieres; my accuser Manuel Delgado (…) knows well who the real authors are, and if he used my name it is to save his compañeros and perhaps violated by the police ».
Mate Cosido committed more robberies in 1938 and 1939 until he kidnapped Jacinto Berzón. One of his men, Julio Centurión, who was taking care of the hostage, sold him. He released Berzón and based on his information, the Gendarmerie set up the trap for the Villa Berthet train.
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The hip injury that Mate Secido sustained in that ambush was very serious. He escaped to Añatuya, in Santiago del Estero. The gendarmes tracked him down and even found his field panties stained with blood. For a year they watched there, in the parents’ house in Tucumán and in his wife’s house, in Córdoba.
In the mid-1940s, he was said to have died from an infected hip wound; it was said that he took refuge in Córdoba; It was said that his betrayal decided him to abandon crime and go to Paraguay, where he spent the rest of his life. The only certain thing is that he was 43 years old and that nothing was ever heard from him again.