The Haunting Past and Heartbreaking Present of ‘El Tiradito’ in Arizona

 | July 7, 2023

Credit: Ammodramus, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Imagine going to a place where rejection is the common denominator. Well, this is the case for “El Tiradito,” which roughly translates to “the rejected one,” as it is a location that is cast aside for the unworthy or unwanted. 

In the vibrant city of Tucson, Arizona lies a place that exudes both melancholy and reverence. Its name, “El Tiradito”, or “The Wishing Shrine,” evokes a sense of sorrow and longing. This sacred site has become a poignant symbol of remembrance and solace for those who seek to honor the departed. This is also a place where those who have attempted to cross the border and died in the process are able to be mourned and remembered. Save

However, the origins of this shrine are steeped in a tragic tale that spans nearly two centuries, intertwining love, betrayal, and the plight of those who perished while attempting to cross the border.

Forbidden Love and a Fateful End

The legend begins with a young man named Juan Oliveras, a mere 18 years old, who found himself ensnared in a forbidden romance. Married to the daughter of a wealthy sheep rancher named Francis Goldwyn, Juan’s life appeared perfect. Yet, fate had other plans as his heart.

On one fateful day, Francis returned home unexpectedly, only to witness the betrayal unfolding before his eyes. Consumed by an uncontrollable rage, Francis reached for an ax and relentlessly pursued Juan throughout the house. Cornered and defenseless, Juan met his tragic demise as Francis delivered fatal blows, forever silencing the young man’s hopes and dreams.

As Juan’s life was abruptly extinguished, his lover was left to grapple with the aftermath of their ill-fated love affair. A shattered family, a man she professed to love slain by her husband’s hand, and the weight of an entire community soon discovering their dark secret. 

In the eyes of the church, Juan became a sinner, an outcast, or as they would say, a “tiradito” – one cast aside, undeserving of a sacred burial. Thus, his body remained in the very place where his life was tragically taken, forever entwined with the home that witnessed his demise.

Read more: Carmen De Soto Vasquez and the Legacy She Left in Tucson

A Shrine Rises, the Legend Endures

Over time, the legend of Juan Oliveras, the forgotten one, spread throughout the land. The location where his body lay became a site of pilgrimage, a sanctuary where people sought solace and expressed their devotion. “El Tiradito” serves as a powerful testament not only to Juan’s heartbreaking fate but also to the countless lives lost in their pursuit of a better future across the border. After all, trying to cross the border can be a painful experience. 

Today, “El Tiradito” stands as a solemn reminder of the sacrifices and struggles endured by those who dared to cross the border in search of a brighter tomorrow. It remains a place where the rejected ones find solace and where the memory of their untold stories lives on.

Things You Should Know Before You Visit ‘El Tiradito’

  • Legend says that if you light a candle at El Tiradito and make a wish, your wish will come true. But only if the candle stays lit all night long.
  • “El Tiradito” is part of the National Registry of Historic Places.
  • “El Tiradito” is located in Tucson’s neighborhood named, “Barrio Libre,” which was once considered the Mexican-American side of Tucson.
  • “El Tiradito” was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1971.
  • Make a trip out of it: Children’s Museum Tucson is about 10 minutes away.

Experience it here.

Address: 418 S Main Ave, Tucson, AZ 85701

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