Juan Barraza Samperio, a 59-year-old inmate, is preparing tacos in Santa Martha de Acatitla prison. She sells them in the courtyard from Monday to Wednesday. Her specialty is the Yucatan delicacy cochinita pibil, a slow-roasted spicy pork dish. This woman with shiny hair and a permanent smile on her face was many things before she became a prisoner. She was devoted to Santa Muerte, sold popcorn and even competed in wrestling matches under the stage name “La Dama del Silencio,” or The Lady of Silence. But the activity that took up most of her energy and earned her a place in history was her predilection for killing elderly women.
Her name resurfaced in 2015 when she married an extremely dangerous man who courted her through letters
Barraza, born to an alcoholic mother who would sell her to the highest bidder when she was a child, always dressed in red to commit her crimes. She would knock on the door, smile, introduce herself as a social worker and flash a stethoscope. Once inside, she offered little conversation. Instead, she strangled her victim, usually with said stethoscope and then stabbed her. Barraza then ransacked the house and sometimes defiled her victim sexually. Police reports say she killed 48 women in Mexico City from the late 1990s to January 25, 2006 when a neighbor finally saw her as she left the scene of the crime. The judge sentenced her to 759 years in prison for 17 murders.
After the sentence, “Mataviejitas,” or “Little Old Lady Killer,” disappeared from public view. Her name resurfaced in 2015 when she married another inmate: an extremely dangerous man who courted her for a long time through letters. The wedding, organized by a government program, was given massive publicity and treated like a great love story. A year later, the truth came out.
They had never set eyes on each other before their wedding day, and once wed the relationship did not work. “Once we saw each other, the love vanished,” Mataviejitas told a deputy. During their year-long marriage, they only saw each other three times for a total of 40 minutes. Juana Barraza asked for a divorce. She laughs now when she thinks about it. Tacos from Mondays to Wednesdays is more her thing. Love is for other people.
English version by Dyane Jean François.