Posted by: kellylyneddy | May 26, 2013

Another Roadside Attraction

Building shrines along the roadside is not customary in Canada, so naturally during our travels in Argentina it is one of the first things we noticed. Small shrines decorate the roadside in even the most desolate locations. Often built by truck drivers these “shrines” are usually small house shaped structures built from scrap, however they can be quite ornate.

During our adventure in our rental car (that we fondly named Mofeta Blanca – “the white skunk”) from Neuquen to Villa Pehuenia our curiosity was sparked. We began to see, what at first appeared to be, small houses on the side of the road.  Keen little eyes soon revealed “there is some kind of lady inside that one”. In and around each roadside shrine there was a rainbow of coloured plastic water bottles, each left as an offering.

We have since learned that these roadside shrines are built to honour La Difunta Correa or “Deceased Correa.” It is a story of a Mother’s undying and eternal love for her child. In the mid 19th century her husband was recruited to fight in the Argentine Civil War. He soon fell ill and was abandoned in the dessert. Upon hearing this, Difunta Correa set out in search of her love. Baby in arms she searched the dessert tirelessly, but she died before finding her husband. Her lasting gift to her child was life, as when her body was found her baby was alive, surviving only on breast milk.

Offerings of water are left for Difunta Correa to “calm her eternal thirst.”

Another roadside attraction is an offering to El Gauchito Gil, Argentina’s cowboy. Gauchito Gil aka Antonio Gil, was a poor “gaucho.”  While working on a widow’s Ranch in the 1850’s, Antonio and the widow fell into a love affair. These two lovers were not of the same class and their relationship was shunned by many, including the widow’s own brothers. The Chief of Police also had an eye for the widow. Gauchito Gil was soon run out of town.

Gauchito Gil was called to war, first against Paraguay, and again during the Argentine Civil War. While fighting in the civil war, legend says that Gauchito had a dream. In the dream he was told not to shed the blood of brothers and in the morning he left the army.  Now a deserter, Gauchito Gil was running from the law.

Gauchito was soon found and captured en route to the city of Mercedes. He did not make it. Just before town his captors tied him up in a tree and slit his throat. Just before they do, the Gouchito said:

“You are going to kill me now, but you will arrive in Mercedes tonight at the same time as a letter of my pardon. In the letter they will also tell you that your son is dying of a strange illness. Invoke me before God and pray for your son’s life, because the blood of the innocent serves to makes miracles.”

To which the sergeant said “I don’t care,” and killed the Gauchito.

Legend says that his captor did indeed receive a letter of Guachito’s pardon that included news of his son’s illness. Gauchitos executioner remembered his last words and prayed to Gauchito Gil for the life of his son. The story spreads and devotees grow for Gauchito Gil. His first follower was his own murderer.

Shrines Built for El Gauchito Gil are always red. People leave offerings of red things, symbolic of the innocent blood that was shed.

Neither Difunta Correa, or El Gauchito Gil are recognized by the church. However, these roadside temples are evidence of Argentine’s passion for these folklore saints.

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Responses

  1. These are fascinating stories!


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