‘The Lady Of Silence: The Mataviejitas Murders’ Summary Explained: Why Did Juana Barraza Kill?


Why would someone target elderly women? The Mexican police could not believe that a person could be capable of inflicting harm on the most vulnerable population. The beloved grandmothers, called Abuelita in Spanish, were the killer’s targets. The Lady of Silence: The Mataviejitas Murders brings together all the resources associated with the series of murders. It took the authorities some time to convince themselves that a single person was behind it. Serial killing was not a common phenomenon in Mexico, but they also could not overlook the fact that all the targets were strangled the same way. Patricia Payan Vidana, a criminologist, tracked down the cases as far back as 1996–1997 and found a report of a violent robbery that resulted in strangulation, and the victim was an elderly person. And eventually, the Mexican authorities admitted that there was a serial killer on the loose.

What Is The Documentary About?

The victims had no connection with the perpetrator; the only common factor was that they were elderly women who lived alone. Bernardo Batiz, the public prosecutor at the time, believed that the Mexican authorities were prepared to deal with the crisis, but that was not quite the case. They were not well versed in solving a serial killer case, and with the victims’ families cleaning the crime scenes, everything was all the more difficult. From the description provided by the witnesses, they concluded that the perpetrator was a broad and strong individual with short hair, and they approached the victims dressed as nurses. They pretended to be working for public policy programs, which was why the targets trusted them easily. The program was new; therefore, the seniors were glad if someone offered to help them get their financial aid card.

The sketch of the “Mataviejitas” was circulated in newspapers, and some beat cops arrested a nurse who looked similar to the sketch. While she truly looked uncannily similar, the witnesses concluded that she was not the one. Nurses united to protest against the arrest of Matilda, and she was ultimately released. The police tried to figure out the serial killer’s modus operandi, and they concluded that she followed her targets and waited for them to be alone at their house. She had the ability to connect instantly with her victims and always managed to win their trust. The murder weapon used to always be an element from the victims’ houses that she used to strangle them. The killer also tended to take a memoir from the house to help her remember the people she executed. While the modus operandi was clear, the police had yet to make an arrest.

What Mistakes Did The Mexican Authorities Make During The Case?

Araceli Vazquez was arrested by the police after she was identified by four elderly people. She posed as a nurse and promised to hand out financial aid cards to the seniors, but later robbed them. Araceli was responsible for several burglaries, and she supposedly was in possession of a victim’s watch. She was made to face the media, and she was handed a white coat and a wig to pose in front of the cameras with. The police deduced that she was linked to five murder cases, but strangely enough, even after Araceli’s arrest, the murders continued. It was evident that she was not the killer, and the hunt began once again. Soon another suspect was arrested: Jorge Mario Tablas Silva was accused of murdering the seniors. It was assumed that he approached his victims dressed as a nurse. The police retrieved a blonde wig, a nurse’s uniform, and a stethoscope from his house, further confirming that he was the serial killer. But in the end, the police did not find any concrete evidence against him. When they failed to find evidence, the police assumed that there were copycat killers who continued to wreak havoc in Mexico City.

The Mexican authorities were under immense pressure to make an arrest, and they eventually decided to bring trans sex workers to the station. They assumed that since the perpetrator was broad and strong, they could not be a female assigned at birth. Trans sex workers were forced into riot vans; they were physically assaulted and exposed to tear gas. The police gathered the fingerprints of the sex workers. They accused the sex workers of being serial killers at random. Batiz denied asking for a raid, and he believed that it must have been a decision taken by the local cops or even the federal police. While the sex workers stated that they were booked by the police, Guillermo Zayas, the homicide prosecutor, denied it and added that they were released soon after the fingerprint check. Trans people protested against the police brutality that they were subjected to simply because of some guesswork without evidence.

Who Was Juana Barraza? What Was Her Motivation?

From the murder locations, the police concluded that the killer boarded the subway to reach their targets since every location had a subway station. They also realized that the locations were always close to a park, suggesting that the perpetrator befriended her targets at the parks or gardens, walked them home, and strangled them. But the hypothesis was soon rejected since the distance between the parks and the crime locations was too great to be covered in feet. So, the next plausible theory was that the crimes were tactfully conducted near the main road with multiple escape routes. The beat cops were handed sketches of the killer, and they were asked to always be on the lookout. Police patrolling was increased in the neighborhood the killer frequented.

The killer could not escape after strangling Ana Maria de los Reyes. When Ana Maria’s tenant, Joel Lopez, entered her apartment, she was still in the room. Joel Lopez was extremely close to Ana Maria, and whistling to her was part of his routine. When she did not respond to it, he got a little nervous. He noticed that the windows were open, and her belongings were scattered on the bed. He soon found Ana’s body on the floor and heard a noise from the other room. He followed the noise, and he saw a woman in red clothes. They looked at each other for a second before she calmly left the room. He followed her and yelled for help, and thankfully the police were patrolling Zaragoza Street. Soon, the police caught up with the woman in red and grabbed hold of her. She injured a policeman and was soon arrested. The case of the Mataviejitas was finally solved.

The serial killer was a woman in her 40s named Juana Barraza. She was carrying shopping bags and had multiple voter ID cards, senior citizen food stamps, and a bunch of business cards related to wrestling. Her keychain caught the attention of the police; her nickname was “The Lady of Silence,” and her keychain stated that she was a world female wrestling champion. She was known in the female wrestling community, though strangely enough, no one had seen her enter the ring. Most did not expect the killer to be a woman; it was always assumed that they would be a crossdresser. Her calm demeanor surprised the police all the more. After questioning her, the police learned that her mother was an alcoholic who abused her and sold her off to a man in exchange for a few bottles of beer.

The man went on to sexually assault her on a regular basis. Her childhood was tragic, and she blamed her mother for it. She wanted to punish women her mother’s age since she believed they were all equally vicious. She hated when privileged women refused to pay her fair price, and as a result, she murdered them. She believed they all deserved to die. Juana Barraza initially denied being the killer, but eventually, she went on to accept that she murdered Ana Maria and a few other victims. From the neighbors, the media learned that she chose to keep her interactions to a minimum. Her entire apartment was painted red, and it was cluttered with objects.

At the end of The Lady of Silence: The Mataviejitas Murders, we witness that there was no guilt in Barraza’s eyes, as is seen in the trial footage. Juana Barraza was sentenced to 759 years and 17 days in prison; it was meant to make a statement. We find out that even though there was no evidence found against Araceli Vazquez, she has been locked up in prison for the last 19 years. She had repeatedly stated that she was a thief and not a murderer, but that did not affect her sentence. During her trial, the witnesses stated that she was not the killer, but the authorities needed someone to blame.

Even though the authorities involved in the case do not remember Araceli, she continues to serve a sentence for a crime she did not commit. Mario Tablas was accused of nine murders, but there was no concrete evidence in his case as well. Later, Barraza’s fingerprint was found in a case for which Tablas was sentenced. He died in prison, though he always maintained that he was innocent. We also get to know by the end of the documentary that Barraza has found a source of income in prison by selling Tacos every Tuesday, a privilege that she earned as a result of her good behavior. She eventually got married as well, though it soon ended in a divorce. The prison guards are said to be afraid of Berraza, and they always try to accommodate her needs. Even after twenty years, Barraza remains unforgettable and a case worth revisiting over and over again.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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