We are happy to welcome a very talented guest contributor to Piola.me, photographer Juan Pablo Barrientos. For more information about Juan, please see his bio at the end of the article.
La Difunta Correa
The story takes place in civil war-torn Argentina, cerca 1840. Deolinda Correa’s husband had been forcibly drafted to join the army, because the commissioner in that area has set his sights on the beautiful Deolinda. Without her husband there to protect her, she realized that she would be forced to become the commissioner’s mistress. Left with no other choice but to flee, Deolinda packed her newborn baby and followed the route taken by the army in an effort to reunite with her husband. She left with nothing but her child, and all the food and water she could carry, and traveled through the desert of San Juan province. It wasn’t long before she ran out of food and water and died of thirst in the desert. Her body was found days later by gauchos, who also discovered her baby, still alive. Legend says that the baby was kept alive by the milk of its mother’s breast, which miraculously stayed full even after her death. Over the years the story was told and retold. A sanctuary was built at Deolinda’s grave and people began to visit and leave offerings.
The Catholic church does not recognize Deolinda Correa as a saint, but she has received unofficial sainthood status among her followers in Argentina and other places in Latin America. They believe that Deolinda has the power to perform miracles for the living. Her first miracle was the milk in her breast that kept her infant alive.
Over the years, the town of Vallecito, San Juan, where Deolinda’s grave is located, has become the site to visit and leave offerings for her. The place that used to be nothing more than a cross on the top of a hill now has over 15 chapels dedicated to the saint, restaurants, and hotels. Although Deolinda receives visitors year round, the Cabalgata de Fé a Difunta Correa (Parade of Faith to the Deceased Correa) occurs every year around March or April. In 2011, photographer Juan Pablo Barrientos attended to photograph the event. Hundreds of thousands of people travel every year to pay homage to Deolinda, bringing offerings ranging from bottled water to quench her thirst, to automobiles, wedding dresses, and much more. Barrientos shares with us his experience of La Difunta Correa through his exquisite photos of the events he witnessed.
(You can click on the photos to see them in more detail)
Gauchos making their way to Vallecito
The line of people waiting to leave offerings and prayers for Deolinda Correa
Deolinda Correa figurines for sale (AR$5)
Bicycles and automobiles left as offerings
Women crawl on hands and knees to the chapel where they will leave their offerings
Juan Pablo Barrientos is a photographer/photojournalist and graphic designer from Buenos Aires, Argentina. With his lens he has captured protests in Plaza de Mayo, rockers by the likes of Jarvis Cocker and Charly Garcia, and portraits of some of the most important figures in Argentine culture, politics, and history. You can see more of his work on his website, viojf.com