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Friday, January 13, 2006

A Friday the Thirteenth Visit to El Tiradito
by Victor

Friday the Thirteenth has always been associated with superstition and bad luck. Whether it involves a black cat crossing your path, or walking under a ladder, there is something about it that creates irrational fear for many people throughout the world. Occasionally, these fears involve the supernatural. The story I have compiled for today is the story of El Tiradito, the castaway and sinner.

El Tiradito is an old shrine in Tucson, Arizona which is dedicated to an adulterer who was murdered by his lover’s husband. According to the official version of the story, El Tiradito was a young man named Juan Olivieras who lived in Arizona during the late 1800’s. He grew attracted to his mother-in-law who lived in what is now Downtown Tucson, and one day his lust led him to sleep with her.

However, this adulterated love wasn’t meant to last. One day, Juan’s father-in-law walked in on his unfaithful wife and Juan making love in their house. Hatred and rage soon engulfed the man as he watched his marriage get desecrated by his back stabbing son-in-law. Full of anger, the man grabbed a nearby axe and killed Juan.

After coming to terms with what he had done, the father-in-law fled south to Mexico. As for Juan, he was buried on the spot where he was murdered, in accordance with an old Mexican custom. A shrine was built over his grave, which is known today as the Wishing Shrine.

According to the legend, if you light a candle at the shrine and the candle stays lit until dawn, your wish will be answered. Many people pray for worldly possessions, which the shrine ignores. A prayer will usually be answered if it involves good health, forgiveness for a sinner, or finding love.

Unfortunately to the disappointment of many, a candle rarely stays lit. Some individuals have devoted many a night over the years praying at the shrine only to have their prayers ignored. This kind of rejection can destroy a person’s spirit. Despair can cause some people to do grave things.

According to the book Arizona Twilight Tales, by Jane Eppinga, there was once a woman named Amilia who was in love with a man named Juan Mario. One day, she discovered that Juan was married and had 3 children. Not sure of what to do, Amilia decided to pray at the shrine for Juan to leave his wife so that she could finally be with him. But her candles never lasted till sunrise.

Feeling frustrated, Amilia gave up after a while, and, in her despair, turned to the devil for help. She performed a voodoo ritual in which she took the remains of one of her old candles and formed it into the crude shape of a man. Then, after offering a prayer to the devil, stuck the effigy with needles and buried it. After realizing the grave consequences for her actions, Amilia abandoned the shrine and disappeared. Juan Mario was supposedly found dead of a heart attack soon after.

The superstitions and history surrounding this shrine have made it a very famous historical landmark, one definitely worth checking out if you have the time.

The shrine is located behind the parking lot of the El Minuto Cafe on Main St. just south of Cushing St. in Tucson.

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