El Tiradito shrine true west magazine
El Tiradito shrine.

El Tiradito, is located in Tucson’s Barrio Viejo and is supposed to be the world’s only shrine for a sinner. There are many versions of how the shrine came to be but my favorite is the story that began in the 1870s with an ill-fated love affair between a young sheepherder named Juan Oliveras and his mother-in-law.  His father-in-law came home from his sheep ranch early one day and caught the two in an amorous “situation.” In a jealous rage he chased young Juan down the street and killed him. Since Juan was guilty of a sin he couldn’t be buried on consecrated ground so he was buried on the site where he was slain to slumber in timeless repent forever known as the Little Castaway.

As time went by the women in the barrio began to romanticize the affair and visited the site to light candles and pray that he be forgiven. Soon it became a shrine for parents concerned about their flirtatious daughters. Visitors to the shrine came to light a candle and make a wish.  The legend grew that when the candle burned through the night the wish would be granted. Some claim to have heard Juan’s remorseful mother-in-law crying in the night for her lost lover.

The shrine is located on 400 South Main Avenue between Cushing and Simpson Streets and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


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