El Tiradito Sanctuary

Arizona Daily Star Kelly Presnell

Gloria Rebecca Gomez for the Arizona Daily Star

A year ago, Miguel Reyes’ friend passed away. He printed a few photos at his local Walgreens and took them, along with a few small candles, to El Tiradito Shrine. He had done the same for his father two years ago.

“Feeling like you can connect with the dead, remember them, it helps overcome grief,” he said.

El Tiradito is a three-sided shrine with crumbling adobe walls, small and nondescript, just blocks from the hustle and bustle of downtown Tucson.

Large glass candles, adorned with images of Catholic saints, invade the floor in front of the arch, which is covered with painted and written messages, such as the one that says “I love you mom”.

Toy trucks, faded in paint, share space with shattered porcelain figurines, plastic flower wreaths and a photograph of a man holding a guitar – his features are clouded by time and weather. Lying on its side in the dirt is a solitary shot glass. “RIP Ruffles” is written on it in Sharpie.

History and cultural identity

The shrine, located at 420 S. Main Ave., has a long history in Tucson’s Barrio Viejo and now embodies its cultural heritage.

The original was destroyed by a highway construction project, but was later reinstated in 1927 on a given piece of land, according to a 2007 article in the Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies, “Barrio, Borderlands, and Beyond: Folk Religion and Universal Human Rights at Tucson’s Sanctuaire El Tiradito.