The other day my husband and I visited Difunta Correa, a shrine to a young women known as Difunta—a woman who died of thirst in the desert outside San Juan, Argentina. But when they found her body, three or four days after her death, her baby was still nursing from her breast.
Now, I have no idea of the science. One young woman from Spain argued to me that it wasn’t a miracle—wouldn’t the milk stay in the woman’s breast anyway? Another woman, from San Juan, found the whole thing ridiculous and couldn’t believe that we’d spent the day going to the shrine rather than to the supposedly spectacular Valle de la Luna. And then she said, “Oh, if my mother heard me now, she’d kill me!”
I had never seen anything like this before. Perched on the side of a hill, there are these five houses devoted to people giving things for things in their lives they credit to Difunta Correa—houses, husbands, businesses, children, graduation, pets…the list felt literally endless. And then there are these stairs up to the top of the hill where the shrine is. Located exactly where Difunta was found dead, but nursing her baby, in 1841 are two panoramas of the story. Surrounding this are countless little houses giving thanks to Difunta. I saw the top of a car painted in thanksgiving to Difunta, license plates from Florida, a 30-something man with a tattoo of Difunta on his shoulder posing in front of the shrine. It was incredible. And I’m told that there are plenty of people who make the trek up the stairs on their knees.
I’ve heard of shrines like this, but never seen anything like it before. I have to admit that I wanted to go see the shrine in the interest of seeing kitchy, unique religious expressions. I expected to be cynical.
Instead, I was blown away by the sincerity of it.