At the back of a simple dirt lot is a little grotto waxy and oily from decades of dripping candles.

El Tiradito is a wishing shrine dedicated to sinners.

Details of its origins vary and even conflict, but the official version holds that a herder named Juan Oliveras, the unlucky member of a lovers' triangle, was killed on this spot. Because he was buried in unconsecrated ground, his pious neighbors came here to light candles and pray for his soul. Over the years, the locals gave up on old Juan and started looking out for their own interests.

Folklore has it that if you make a wish here and light a candle, and if your candle burns all through the night, your wish will come true.

So it's best to visit El Tiradito ("The Castaway") in the evening, although in the dark you may overlook, west of the shrine, El Ojito, an artesian spring that has supplied water to the neighborhood since Spanish Colonial days.

Photo Credits:
Library of Congress
Prints and Photographs Division
Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record
Reproduction Number (HABS, ARIZ, 10-Tucso,30/50-1)