Walden World

The wacky and wonderful tales of Beth's and Catherine's global adventures. And all things Walden too.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sudden Saints

Interestingly Argentina has a habit of spontaneously making the most interesting assortment of people into Saints. These are not saints confirmed by the Catholic Church, nor necessarily even holy people who lived holy lives.

For example a singer of what might be akin to hip hop in Argentinian terms was killed on her way to one of her many concerts in a crash on her bus only to have countless shrines erected to her and a belief by many that she could perform miracles. This was also the case with Evita for some time.

Currently there are a few big, but unofficial saints whose shrines you see everywhere. First off Gauchito Gil whose red flagged shrines adorn the side of highways every few of kilometres. Gauchito Gil appears to be a Black man who is adorned all in red. He was allegedly a former soldier gone AWOL who then robbed with a gang and stole from the rich and gave to the poor. When he was finally caught and about to be hanged, he told one of his captors that his son was very ill and should he give him a proper burial the son would be cured. Deserting soldiers at that time were not buried properly but left to rot.

After his death, the soldier lopped off Gil's head and took it back to town, only to learn that his son was gravely ill. He immediately returned to the sight of the hanging and properly buried the body and returned to find his son recovered.

Gauchito Gil worship isn't isolated soley to shrines but his image can be found on everything from bumper stickers to T-shirts.

Not that everyone believes; there is a saying "if you have a cold it will last 7 days by itself, 7 days if you see a doctor and 7 days if you bury Gauchito Gil".

There is also Santa Muerte or Saint Death who is a skeleton who is either draped in white or black clothing depending on whether you want him to do good for you or to do bad on your behalf.

A guide who was Catholic said many of her friends told her she should really take the help of Santa Muerte assuring her he will do what you ask for, but she refused despite the temptation, given her faith.

Finally there is Funtura Correa, which I am probably spelling incorrectly, that roughly translates to death or plague Correa: a woman with a baby who followed an army column for days without water or help and finally died of thirst.

Along the highways you will see huge piles of empty plastic water bottles looking more like a garbage dump than a shrine, yet sort through them and you will find a shrine underneath. People fill bottles with water and leave them for her though of course the water eventually evaporates.

Our guide Pedro said of her that she was an excellent saint and very helpful.

Especially when you are driving in the desert and your car radiator runs dry.


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