Our driver was called Javier and he was from Concordia, Entre Ríos. He stopped for to check the tires pressure in Gualeguay crossing and we were soon asking him wether he could take us south back to Buenos Aires. On board, the cabin of his Mercedes 1620 had its own iconography that including illustrations of different saints.
Among the classic stamp of Gauchito Gil and Difunta Correa, emerges the image of Death, with her own chopper. “It’s Saint Death” – affirms Javier, and proceeds to tell us the story of how he became a follower.
He had been working for years for a logistic company. He used to drive so fast that his boss seemed to trust Javier would always made it, no matter how distant was the goal. If there was a queue of fifty truck in the loading spot, he wouls be granted priority. He was a true king of the road. “Then they started sending me to Misiones province” – regrets. There the landscape is so hilly that you can hardly drive Fast. When going down a hill, actually, you need to have good breaking skills. On the contrary, Javier had fun descending at 120 km/h.
One day, on reaching the bottom of a steep hill, he found an old truck joining the main road from an unpaved track coming from the rainforest. It’s the kind of trucks carrying on illegal deforestation. E had no time to break and next time he opened his eyes he had all sorts of electrodes connected to his body. He lost her job, and his wife. A man who came suddenly out of nowhere –like the truck he had crushed with- gave him an illustration of Saint Death. As in a miracle, he got a better job and mended the relationship with his wife.
With a bit of research, I found that the cult had its origins in neighbouring Paraguay, as some kind of syncretism that takes roots in the Guarani tradition of worshipping the bones of your ancestors. Natives there used to ask for protection from physical pain and natural disasters.
During the Jesuits era this concept boarded the Christian entity of saint to form a new cult that hasn’t however been recognized by the church. Inner migrations forwarded the cult into other regions, such as the Argentinean provinces of Santa Fe. Corrientes, Chaco and Formosa, and south of Brasil. There is even a large sanctuary in RN 12 Km. 983, in Corrientes. Another example of how there is a lot to learn from hitch-hiking.