Juana Barraza’s story is of darkness and tragedy, marked by a series of brutal murders that terrorized Mexico City. From her unlikely background as a former wrestler to her affiliation with Santa Muerte, the complexities of her life and crimes continue to captivate the public’s imagination. Now incarcerated, Barraza serves a lengthy sentence for her heinous acts, bringing some closure to the families of her victims. She serves as the subject of the new Netflix documentary The Lady of Silence: The Mataviejitas Murders. 

What is the documentary ‘The Lady of Silence: The Mataviejitas Murders’ about? 

The Lady of Silence: The Mataviejitas Murders is a 2023 Netflix documentary that tells the story of Juana Barraza, a Mexican serial killer who murdered at least 42 older women in Mexico City between 1998 and 2005. The documentary explores Barraza’s life, her crimes, and the investigation that led to her capture.

Who is Juana Barraza?

Juana Barraza, a former professional wrestler, gained notoriety as the unlikely suspect behind a series of gruesome murders that targeted older women in Mexico City between 1998 and 2005. Dubbed ‘La Mataviejitas’ or ‘The Old Lady Killer,’ Barraza’s victims were all women aged 60 or over, and it is believed that she may have been responsible for up to 40 murders during this period.

Born in rural Hidalgo, Mexico, in 1957, Juana Barraza had a challenging upbringing. Her father was a police officer, while her mother was a sex worker and an alcoholic. Tragically, her mother exchanged her for three beers with a man named José Lugo after her father’s death. After her mother’s passing due to cirrhosis, Barraza left for Mexico City, where she had several marriages and became a mother to four children, one of whom died at the age of 24.

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

During the 1980s and 1990s, Barraza pursued a variety of jobs and also went into central Mexico as a masked wrestler. However, financial struggles pushed her towards criminal activities, and she began stealing and later robbing homes. In 1996, she made a plan to target older people with the help of her friend, Araceli Tapia Martínez. Disguised as nurses, they gained access to their victims’ homes and robbed them.

Who were the victims of the Mataviejitas Murders?

Barraza’s first confirmed victim was María de la Luz González Anaya, whose murder occurred on November 25th, 2002. Over the next few years, she continued her reign of terror, taking the lives of multiple older women in Mexico City. The serial killer became known as El Mataviejitas, and authorities initially presumed the killer to be male due to the physical strength required for the murders. Barraza’s background as a former professional wrestler challenged this assumption.

In November 2005, witness statements led the Mexican authorities to believe that the killer wore women’s clothing to gain access to the victims’ apartments. Finally, on January 25th, 2006, a significant breakthrough occurred when Juana Barraza was arrested while fleeing from the home of her latest victim, 82-year-old Ana María de los Reyes Alfaro, in Mexico City.

What mistakes did the police make in the Case?

The police assigned to the investigation faced criticism for numerous mistakes. Initially assuming the killer was male, they continued to search for a male suspect despite witness descriptions of a masculine-looking woman. This biased assumption delayed Barraza’s capture significantly. Additionally, police dismissed the notion of a serial killer at work and failed to adequately warn the public despite the increasing number of similar murders. These missteps allowed Barraza to continue her killing spree for an extended period, claiming the lives of numerous older women.

Juana Barraza’s Affiliation with Santa Muerte or Holy Death

Juana Barraza’s association with Santa Muerte, a figure of worship and personification of death, raised questions about whether her religious beliefs played a role in her crimes. When arrested, she was found holding an image of the Holy Death in the back of a police car and had a shrine to Santa Muerte at her home. While some people involved with criminal activities venerate Santa Muerte, it is crucial to understand that the majority who do are seeking protection and solace, not engaging in violence. There is no concrete evidence to suggest that Barraza’s crimes were religiously motivated, as her motivations seemed to stem from personal psychological issues, particularly anger and resentment toward her mother.

Where is Juana Barraza Now?

Juana Barraza faced trial in the spring of 2008. She confessed to the murder of Ana María de los Reyes Alfaro, citing resentment towards her mother as her motive. The court found her guilty on 16 charges of murder and aggravated burglary, including 11 counts of murder. She received a sentence of 759 years in prison, with convictions primarily based on fingerprint evidence.

Today, Juana Barraza resides at the Santa Martha de Acatitla prison in Mexico City. Reports suggest she works as a gym instructor and sells tacos to support her family. While in prison, she married a 74-year-old man named Miguel Ángel, who was also incarcerated. However, their marriage eventually ended in divorce after a year.

 

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