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La Difunta Correa La Difunta Correa

A brave mother who defied
the desert to reunite her family.

La Difunta Correa

THE STORY

A tale transmitted orally from generation to generation, the first written references date back to the year 1865. Most of the accounts coincide in that María Antonia Deolinda Correa lived in San Juan between 1820 and 1841. Daughter of Mr. Pedro Correa, she belonged to a family who lived in the location of “La Majadita”, 9 de Julio, although there are versions that locate her in other towns.
Deolinda had married Baudillo Bustos and she had just become a mother when ‘la leva’ or the forceful conscription took her husband away. In that +times, the forceful recruitment of men was the way to count on troops for the confrontations that intensified with the civil war in the 19th century.
As many women in those times, Deolinda was left helpless in the face of other men’s harassment and the threatening presence of the ‘montoneras2’ that devastated everything in their path. One day at dawn, she left her town to follow the troops that took her husband and beg for mercy for him. Accounts tell that she was dressed in red to be identified with the Federalists; she was carrying her child in her arms; she could only carry a few provisions. In two horns, she carried the water to survive in the desert between an ‘aguada’ and another.
She walked east, towards the flatlands, the dunes, the sands without shade across the journey area. There were no signposted routes or paths, just trails that were erased by the wind. They say she knew the area because she had accompanied her father some times in the past.

Tiredness, the heat and thirst beat her. Disoriented, with her last strength she climbed on top of a mountain to distinguish some settlement or evidence of water, but it was useless. She died of thirst a few kilometres away from the ‘aguada’ she was looking for.
Some versions tell us that before dying she commended her son’s fate to the Virgin of Carmen. Some time later, some drovers found Deolinda’s lifeless body. Her son, still alive, was nursing her breasts’ milk. The drovers rescued the child and buried the young mother. It is said that the man who buried her had ulcers in his hands and these disappeared the instant he placed the cross to signalize her grave. In 1898, a storm in the same area spread the livestock that the drover Flavio Zeballos was driving to Chile. Well into the night and near the cross signalling the grave of the deceased woman who was said to be miraculous, he promised to build a chapel if he recovered the animals. So he did and in that first building other thankful pilgrims started to leave water and different offerings.
Around the first chapel, more and more constructions were erected to host the donations, apart from a precarious house for the occasional caretaker. Over time, the great number of pilgrims and offerings started to transform this out-of-the-way place in a faith and tourist complex, with the necessary services to welcome the growing number of people who arrive from different parts of the country and the world.

Deolinda Correa lived in San Juan between 1820 and 1841. She had married Baudillo Bustos and she had just become a mother when the forceful conscription took her husband away for the confrontations that intensified with the civil war in the 19th century. As many women in those times, Deolinda was left helpless in the face of other men’s harassment and the threatening presence of the ‘montoneras2’ that devastated everything in their path. One day at dawn, she left her town to follow the troops that took her husband and beg for mercy for him. Accounts tell that she was carrying her child in her arms; she could only carry a few provisions. Tiredness, the heat and thirst beat her. She died of thirst a few kilometres away from the ‘aguada’ she was looking for. Some time later, some drovers found Deolinda’s lifeless body. Her son, still alive, was nursing her breasts’ milk. The drovers rescued the child and buried the young mother. It is said that the man who buried her had ulcers in his hands and these disappeared the instant he placed the cross to signalize her grave. Over time, the great number of pilgrims and offerings started to transform this out-of-the-way place in a faith and tourist complex, with the necessary services to welcome the growing number of people who arrive from different parts of the country and the world.

La Difunta Correa

Sanctuary.

Year 1940.

La Difunta Correa

Pilgrims at the site.

1940-1950.

La Difunta Correa La Difunta Correa

Chapel Virgin of Carmen.

Construction in the 1960s.

La Difunta Correa

The Chapels.

1965-1970.

THE JOURNEY

Deolinda Correa, Maria Antonia Deolinda Correa. ‘La Difunta’. ‘La Difuntita’. Who was this woman who is the recipient of one of the most popular devotions in Argentina? Why is it that the tale around her life and death has originated a belief that goes beyond borders and touches the hearts of multitudes?

Her existence has been an enigma for many researchers. The few documents mentioned by the written story are not easy to prove at present.