18 Unusual Roadside Shrines in South America
This is a photo gallery post – please refer to individual photo captions for description and locations.
One thing we love about travelling in our own vehicle is that we can stop wherever we like to check out and photograph sites next to the road – even the ones which seem to be rather insignificant. That’s at least the theory, but in practice it often happens that we’re driving too fast to stop or can’t find a spot to pull safely off the road. But overall we feel we are a lot better off than travellers on public transport.
Everywhere in Latin America you find small shrines next to the road, or occasionally also next to rivers or at beaches. Some of these were erected to worship a particular saint or popular figure of saint-like glorification; we’ll post examples of these in the future. Others are erected by family or friends to commemorate a person who has died under tragic circumstances. These can range from traffic accidents (the most common) to other accidents, or a violent death under attack.
Particularly in Chile, the latter ones have a specific name; they are known as “Animitas”. In some regions you see them every few hundred metres. We certainly don’t stop for all of these shrines, but for the ones which catch our eye or happen to be near where we had already stopped for some other reason.
Many of the shrines are relatively plain and unadorned; some are beautified with plantings of flowers or trees around them; some are constructed with more care and dedication than the average house; and a few are simply “over the top”; these certainly catch our eye. In this photo gallery we show several which have car models or real cars embedded in them, and one which had its own solar-powered street light installed next it!
The ones commemorating real people often contain a collection of the person’s favourite things or miniature models of such items inside. It’s not unusual to find soft toys, toy vehicles, cigarettes, books, bottles of soft-drink or beer, and the like, arranged around a small statue of a saint.
We now have our own nickname for many of these shrines: we call them “God Kennels”, which is not meant to be disrespectful, but came to mind after we passed through a region where the majority of these shrines were really created inside the prefabricated dog kennels you can buy at most major hardware stores in South America. These roadside shrines are not exclusive to Chile and Argentina; you find them in every country in Latin America.
Have you looked at some roadside shrines more closely?
We would like to hear through the ‘comments’ below…