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Panteon Puerta Blanca, Tijuana’s Oldest Public Cemetery

Just two blocks south of the border fence is Tijuana's oldest public cemetery, Panteon Puerta Blanca. It's also the setting for two popular tales from the crypt. In the spirit of this Halloween season, learn your Latin folklore.


Panteon Puerta Blanca, Tijuana’s Oldest Public Cemetery

Juan Soldado

Juan Soldado, or Soldier John, at the cemetery

The Lady in White. The story of Enriqueta Gil is nothing short of Tijuana’s 1930s take on a Hans Christian Ander- sen tragedy. Girl falls in love with boy. Boy proposes and girl accepts. Girl’s father disapproves and locks her away. Girl stops eating and comes close to death. Father repents and allows girl to marry, but it’s too late. Enriqueta’s fad- ing health ultimately gives way to her passing. Numer- ous accounts have since been told by men—usually cab drivers—who claim to have crossed paths with a beauti- ful young woman dressed in white near Puerta Blanca after dark. She supposedly asks to be escorted home, but when reaching the graveyard is said to either suddenly disappear or, with superhuman strength, attempt to pull her newfound companion through the padlocked gates, where the grandiose Gil family plot marks the center of the grounds.

Juan Soldado. A soldier in the Mexican army sta- tioned in Tijuana in 1938, Juan Castillo Morales—now simply known as Juan Soldado, or Soldier John—was ex- ecuted for the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl. Despite the fact that the evidence proved inconclusive and two sets of fingerprints were supposedly found on the body, controversy continues to shroud this dark tale and locals remain sharply divided. Common belief among his devotees is that he was framed by his general, allegedly a notorious pedophile. Now, 75 years after his death, the soldier has ascended to folk saint status, mostly among undocumented migrants who take souvenir rocks from near the chapel built atop Juan’s tomb in Puerta Blanca after asking for his assistance in the northbound voyage.

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