Since the 1940s, this shrine, once a simple cross, has metastasized into a village with basic hotels, restaurants and shops, all dedicated to the legend of Difunta Correa. The story goes that during the civil wars of the 1840s, a woman named Deolinda Correa followed her conscript husband’s battalion through the deserts of San Juan, carrying their baby son in her arms. She died when supplies ran out, but the infant was later found still nursing at the dead woman’s breast.
The shrine at Vallecito commemorates what is widely believed to be the site of her death. Difunta literally means ‘defunct,’ and Correa is her surname. People visit year-round, but at Easter, May 1 and Christmas, up to 200,000 make pilgrimages here. Weekends are busier than weekdays. There are regular departures to Vallecito from San Juan and Mendoza.