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A Saint is Born 31.8.15

September 7, 2015

Difunta Correa Shrine. Near San Juan 31.8.15

No matter where a person drives in Argentina they willl notice the little red shrines alongside the road. Often there are long scarlet ribbons flowing with the breeze and plastic water filled bottles are also often piled around the shrine as well. At first we thought they were shrines for road deaths but it appears not.

Most of them are shrines for Difunta Correa, a woman who has now become a saint in this country. A saint of the people that is but not of the Catholic church who consider her a heretic. ‘Difunta’ means ‘defunct’, what the country people call a deceased person.

Her story goes back 150 years or so when, during one of the civil wars of the 19th century she died  of thirst while following her husband who had been conscripted to one side or the other. But when some muleteers found her a few days later her young baby boy was still alive, saved by drinking from his dead mother’s breast. A miracle!

A bit far fetched but to the Argentinians she has become a fall back whenever the church does the dirty on them or don’t fulfil their needs.

A shrine has been erected where she died, some 60 kms east of San Juan. It is a  real mish mash of a place with the covered steps up to the grotto completely covered in car number plates while on the sloping sides of the rise are hundreds of models of houses from people thanking her for whatever she did to help. The stone and brick walls that surround the grotto are covered in hundreds maybe thousands of plaques from people thanking her. A father and daughter were crawling up the hundred or so steps on their hands and knees while we were there. But they weren’t in a trance or murmuring mystical chants or anything like that; they were laughing, looking around, not minding their photo being taken but  did look pleased when they reached the grotto.

In the grotto itself are two life size statues of the dead woman with the baby at her breast. It is really over the top but hey, what harm does it do. The church tried to counter her popularity by building this dirty big church opposite the shrine, I think they should have just quietly let the people have their way.

She is very popular with the truckies and although the shrine is a kilometre off the highway there has been a steady stream of trucks making the detour to acknowledge her or maybe get her blessing.

A little town has sprung up around this holy place with its own police station, information  centre and schoool.

We are camped on the edge of one of the massive parking areas near the shrine. Over 100,000 people visit this place each year and the camping areas and car parks are enormous.

The bakkie started first time yesterday and everything inside was in order. Leaving it where we did with the Automobile Club of Argentina worked out very well and can recommend it to other overlanders with smaller rigs.

The official US$/Arg peso exchange rate has now crept to over 9 pesos per dollar but on the dollar blue market I was able to get 15 to the dollar. Makes a big difference when shopping.

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