Driving through Argentina you will undoubtedly come across roadside shrines. You will be surprised to find them even in the unlikeliest and remotest locations.
I have driven and walked past many but never had the opportunity to find out exactly what the story behind the shrines are. People leave bottles of water next to the shrine. I knew this would make for an interesting story. So I decided to do some research and find out what the story is. I got my answer.
Road Shrines and legends
“Those are shrines or monuments to Deolinda Correa.”
But who was Delinda Correa?
Legends are always interesting stories. This one is no different. Legend has it that María Antonia Deolinda Correa, lived in the San Juan Province in the 1830’s with her husband and infant child. San Juan province is far north of Patagonia.One day her husband Bustos, was taken by force from their home.
He was forced to join the private army of Juan Facundo Quiroga. He was a regional gaucho warlord. Deolinda was devastated and set out on foot, with her infant son in her arms. She followed her husband. For days she walked through the desert without food or water. She finally collapsed and died. Some days later, mule drivers passed by this route and found her body. But amazingly the baby was still alive! He was nursing at her breast! They buried her. The men did not know who she was. The only indication was a pendant that she wore which bore the name Correa. They labelled the tomb “Difunta Correa,” difunta being a word that commonly means “dead.
Many years later when the story started to spread, the locals started to think of her as a saint who had given her life for her child. Keeping in mind that the nation is predominantly Catholic, people started to pray to her, mostly people in need. When someone’s prayers were answered, he would built a small chapel to honor Deolinda. People brought offerings of water to this chapel. It was a symbol for the divine relief from thirst. Small roadside shrines began to appear all over the country. Some shrines are littered by hundreds of bottles of water.
Deolinda Correa has become the unofficial regional patron saint of travellers, farmers, and all those whose lives or livelihoods depend on a precarious supply of water. The monument built on the site where Deolinda is said to have died is now a large sanctuary—a hilltop where 17 chapels, and numerous smaller shrines, pay her honor. Over half a million pilgrims visit this site in the small town of Vallecito each year.
There are many Argentinians who don’t believe in the story but judging by the thousands of shrines all over Argentina, a great many people do.