On the way into San Juan, we stopped at Vallecito, home of “La Difunta Correa”. The story goes that in the mid 1800s, Sra. Deolinda Correa followed her husband as he went off to battle, impressed into service as was common at the time. Sra Correa died of thirst on the trail, seeking her husband, but her baby survived by nursing its dead mother. Since that time, La Difunta Correa has become the patron of travelers, though her status has not been confirmed by the Catholic church.
Travelers give gifts of water bottles to the difunta at roadside shrines. Some have hundreds of bottles. The main shrine goes far beyond water bottles. Plaques created in gratitude for safe travels cover the sides of several structures, and gift range from paintings and sculpture to wedding and christening dresses, trophies, toys, and a room full of model trucks, each emblazoned with the name of a transport company seeking safe travels. The site covers about an acre and at least 5 times that area is covered by picnic areas, barbeque grills, bus parking and other amenities. There could be thousands of people visiting at one time, though there were only about ten people there while we were at the shrine. Here is a roadside shrine to la difunta:
Another shrine along the roadside consists of a monument by the roadside, possibly containing a saint, and surrounded by red flags. These honor Gaucho Gil, and show places where near misses took place. It is a change from the roadside monuments to the dead, as the red flags celebrate survival.
1/31 Details: We planned to leave early, but had to wait to pay and had to get gas. We left Chilecito around 9 am heading for San Juan by way of Ischigualasto, a regional park with wild wind-carved sandstone spires. When we arrived we found that part of the route was washed out and only half the features would be visited. It would take at least two hours, so we contented ourselves with a souvenir coffee cup and the general landscape.
We arrived in San Juan at about 4 pm after our visit to La Difunta Correa. It was 38 C (100 F), so we retreated to our air conditioned room in the Del Bono Suites. The room was a nice, a studio with an anteroom containing table and two chairs, and kitchenette. The A/C was essential. When the sun went down and it cooled off a bit, we ventured out for shopping: water, dinner. We didn’t eat at a restaurant because they didn’t open until 9 pm. We just haven’t adjusted to Argentina enough to eat dinner late at night yet.