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An unusual shrine

El Tiradito (also known as The Wishing Shrine), located in Tucson, Arizona is the only shrine of its kind in the United States dedicated to a sinner - a man known as El Tiradito (loosely meaning a castaway or reject, in Spanish).

Many legends have been told on the origins of this shrine but most versions tell the story of a man (possibly a Mexican sheep herder) that fell in love with a married woman. He was killed by the woman's husband in front of the couple's home. It is believed that he was buried on the spot, in front of the house, because as a sinner he could not be buried in the local cemetery.

Word about El Tiradito's murder spread around the neighborhood and people came to the grave to place candles in the hope of freeing his soul from Purgatory. The candle lighting tradition has continued over decades. Only the intentions and wishes have changed: candles are lit praying for the safety of a loved one in the military, or for the return of a long lost relative. Candles are long and tapered, encased in glass, with an image of a saint.

The shrine dates back to the 1870's. It is located in the Old Barrio section of downtown Tucson and consists mostly of a crumbling brick wall and metal candle holders.



The walls surrounding the shrine are full of little nooks and crannies. Small pieces of paper with messages along with tokens and photographs are tucked into the cracks in the walls. According to local folklore, the messages are from the heartbroken and/or lovesick.



Plaque facing the street. The shrine was entered in the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.


Comments (7)

What a lovely shrine! While the story behind is a little disturbing, the shrine was put to great use.
Thanks for sharing this Maria.

What a cool shrine! Love the folklore and also the way it looks, with all those candles and those little notes tucked in the holes in the wall. Were lots of people visiting it when you were there?

Candi, yes, it was a tragedy but the shrine has served as a unifying force in the community.

Annie, I visited the shrine on a Saturday afternoon and there wasn't anyone else there. A big arts festival was going on nearby and I think all the Tucsonans were at the festival enjoying the food and music.

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Maria, how interesting to read that this is the only shrine of it's kind in the US. Much like the locks tradition I had read about it's interesting how the tradition of this wishing shrine built for the soul of the sheep herder grew into something much more over the years for the people visiting it. And the notes in the holes reminds me of the notes left on the walls near the balcony of Romeo and Juliet in Verona. It's kind of cool to know that we have these interesting traditions here in the US too.

Thank you so much for sharing this interesting part of history in Tuscon.

Maria, what an interesting story. It is always so fun to learn something about another part of our country. I love the notes tucked in the little holes. Thank you for sharing.


Maria, what a fascinating legend! And the modern tradition is so interesting as well. It's amazing where people will look for hope, and express their wishes and prayers, such as putting the notes in the wall. Great photos too.

Have a great weekend!

It is amazing that the shrine has lasted for so long. It is nice that it has turned into something that unifies the community. Thanks for sharing this interesting story.

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