As you drive through Argentina (and to a lesser extent Chile and Uruguay) you will notice numerous roadside shrines. Those decorated with red flags are dedicated to Gauchito Gil, those surrounded by bottles of water are intended for Difunta Correa, or as she would be known in English The Deceased Correa.
Legend has it that around 1840 a woman, Deolinda Correa, went in search of her husband who had been forcibly conscripted into the Argentine Civil war. She set off across the desert of San Juan carrying her baby. Not long after she departed she died of thirst, starvation and exhaustion, but when gauchos came across her body days later they were astounded to find the baby still alive and suckling at her ever-full breast.
Picture: K. Stanworth
Ayone who’s spent any time in Latin America will have noticed how widespread Catholic beliefs have blended with neo-Pagan mysticism, and working-class Argentines’ devotion to the Difunta Correa is a prime example of this.
The roadside shrines are nothing compared to the sanctuary at Vallecito where her body was found, and my visit there is right up there on the list of ‘most bizarre experiences ever’. Nearly twenty chapels, each one dedicated to a particular cause (truck drivers, mothers who have lost infants) litter the hill, each one featuring at its center a lurid reconstruction of the Difunta and her suckling newborn.
Picture: U. Schlosser
Pilgrims bearing offerings queue for hours to pray and sob at her side. We went when it was relatively quite, but over Easter and on All Souls’ Day crowds of up to 200,000 have been rumored.