La Difunta Correa, the legend of an abandoned woman

La Difunta Correa, the legend of an abandoned woman

Deceased Correa is actually a very sad love story that has become a symbol of the popular faith in Argentina.

Here is a very peculiar story that took place in what it is now in the province of San Juan. Between 1835 and 1850 (the exact date is not known), the so-called Baudilio Bustos was recruited by the army to be taken to La Rioja. His wife, María Antonia Deolinda Correa, desperate at seeing him leave, took his baby in her arms and followed the path of the military column through the province. She died exhausted at the top of a hill in the desert of San Juan.

It was after some days that shepherds that walked past that place, intrigued by the carrion birds, approached the victim and found out that the baby had survived breast-fed. The shepherds buried the poor woman in that place and took over the baby. Later, the legend says, another shepherd that had lost his cattle found Correa tomb and started to pray to find them. This request was satisfied and the piece of news was spread. The legend of deceased Correa was born!

The Difunta Correa

However, the true legend was born fifty years later when gaucho Pedro Flavio Zeballos, well-known in Western Argentina, was in charge of 500 cows towards Chile. He made a stop under a shelter when there was a big storm upsetting the cattle. He wanted to preserve his popularity, the loss of his cattle would be the worst dishonor for him, and then he was told the story by another gaucho travelling with him who spoke about the cross crowning the tomb of deceased Correa. He went there for a prayer and promised that if he found his cattle, he would build a chapel.

The miracle occurred as Pedro found his cattle grouped on a hill, and no cow was missing! Since then, the place where the cattle were found was called the hill of the cows. Once the cattle were sold in Chile, Pedro returned home to fulfill his promise and built the first chapel, directly over the tomb of deceased Correa. The story was spread all around Argentina Chile and part of South America and, by the end of the 19th century; gauchos and cattle-escorts resorted to her protection in exchange for a promise.

Along the 20th century, the place had gained importance although the Church did not recognize Deceased Correa. Argentineans came to ask for protection the first time and then returned with a gift as a way of recognition. This gift may take the aspect of a house model if the promise was for lodging, or the picture of a store, a race horse, a truck or a football cup, etc. Along the years, other chapels were opened for specified topics: the sport chapel, the police chapel, the army chapel, the brides’ chapel, the builders’ chapel… all in all, there are more than thirty chapels nowadays.

Protection from the Difunta Correa

A small city started to be built in the middle of the desert as restaurants and souvenir sellers started to set up. But the most visited place is still the top of the hill where deceased Correa died which can be reached through the stairs where the thousands of plates of the “protected” cars were fixed. The statue representing her dying breast-feeding her son receives thousands of pilgrims every year.

Deceased Correa is actually a very sad love story that has become a symbol of the faithful wife that chooses to die instead of losing her husband, and the mother already dead still feeds her son. We also like to believe in nice stories, this deserves some reflection for the true social event. On the way to valle de la Luna, San Juan, you may make a stop to discover this Argentine story.

Location: on National Route 141, 65 Km West from the city of San Juan, in a place called El Vallecito. 31º44’ South, 67º59’ West.