El Tiradito (The Outcast) is in Barrio Viejo in Tucson, Arizona, and is supposedly the world’s sole shrine for a sinner.
Of the shrine’s many origin stories, my favorite dates to an 1870s ill-fated love affair between 18-year-old sheepherder Juan Oliveras and his mother-in-law. The father-in-law discovered the pair and killed Oliveras in a jealous rage. Oliveras, guilty of a sin, couldn’t be buried in consecrated ground, so he was laid to rest where he died.
As time went by, the women in the barrio romanticized the affair. They visited the site to light candles and pray for God to forgive Oliveras.
The shrine soon evolved into a place to pray for a wish, most particularly for parents concerned about their flirtatious daughters. The legend grew that when the candle burned through the night, the wish would be granted.
Some visitors to the shrine today claim to have heard Oliveras’s remorseful mother-in-law crying in the night for her lost lover.
Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org