Added: November 9, 2013 – Last updated: November 9, 2013


Author: Paul J. Vanderwood

Title: Juan Soldado

Subtitle: Rapist, Murderer, Martyr, Saint

Place: Durham and London

Publisher: Duke University Press

Year: 2004

Pages: xvi + 332pp.

Series: American Encounters/Global Interactions

ISBN-13: 9780822334040 (cloth) – Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat | ISBN-13: 9780822334156 (pbk.) – Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat

Language: English

Keywords: 20th Century | Mexican History | Cases: Offenders / Juan Soldado; Cases: Victims / Olga Camacho Martínez; Types: Child Sexual Abuse


Link: Amazon (Limited Preview)

Link: Google Books (Limited Preview)



  Preface (p. xi)
  Acknowledgments (p. xv)
  I. The Crime
  1. Notions of Justice (p. 3)
  2. Aftermath (p. 51)
  II. Circumstances
  3. Tijuana (p. 75)
  4. Mexico for Mexicans (p. 104)
  5. Riding the Roller Coaster (p. 137)
  III. Belief
  6. Witness to Execution (p. 173)
  7. Criminals and Saints (p. 201)
  8. Closer to God (p. 249)
  9. John the Soldier (p. 275)
  Notes (p. 293)
  Sources (p. 311)
  Index (p. 327)


»Paul J. Vanderwood offers a fascinating look at the events, beliefs, and circumstances that have motivated popular devotion to Juan Soldado, a Mexican folk saint. In his mortal incarnation, Juan Soldado was Juan Castillo Morales, a twenty-four-year-old soldier convicted of and quickly executed for the rape and murder of eight-year-old Olga Camacho in Tijuana in 1938. Immediately after Morales’s death, many people began to doubt the evidence of his guilt, or at least the justice of his brutal execution. People reported seeing blood seeping from his grave and hearing his soul cry out protesting his innocence. Soon the “martyred” Morales was known as Juan Soldado, or John the Soldier. Believing that those who have died unjustly sit closest to God, people began visiting Morales’s grave asking for favors. Within months of his death, the young soldier had become a popular saint. He is not recognized by the Catholic Church, yet thousands of people have made pilgrimages to his gravesite. While Juan Soldado is well known in Tijuana, southern California’s Mexican American community, and beyond, this book is the first to situate his story within a broader exploration of how and why popular canonizations such as his take root and flourish.
In addition to conducting extensive archival research, Vanderwood interviewed central actors in the events of 1938, including Olga Camacho’s mother, citizens who rioted to demand Morales’s release to a lynch mob, those who witnessed his execution, and some of the earliest believers in his miraculous powers. Vanderwood also interviewed many present-day visitors to the shrine at Morales’s grave. He describes them, their petitions—for favors such as health, a good marriage, or safe passage into the United States—and how they reconcile their belief in Juan Soldado with their Catholicism. Vanderwood puts the events of 1938 within the context of Depression-era Tijuana and he locates people’s devotion, then and now, within the history of extra-institutional religious activity. In Juan Soldado, a gripping true-crime mystery opens up into a much larger and more elusive mystery of faith and belief.« (Source: Duke University Press)


Aguila, Jaime R. Journal of San Diego History 50(1-2) (Winter-Spring 2004) : 60. – Full Text: San Diego History Center (Free Access)

Bantjes, Adrian. Hispanic American Historical Review 86(1) (February 2006): 171-173. – Full Text: Duke University Press (Restricted Access)

Blankenship, Paul. F. Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 12(1) (August 2008): 138-139. – Full Text: JSTOR (Restricted Access)

Brewster, Keith. History: The Journal of the Historical Association 91(304) (October 2006): 599-600. – Full Text: Wiley Online Library (Restricted Access)

Boyer, Christopher R. The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 37(3) (Winter 2007): 492-494. – Full Text: MIT Press Journals (Restricted Access), Project MUSE (Restricted Access)

Butler, Matthew. Bulletin of Latin American Research 27(1) (January 2008): 134-136. – Full Text: Wiley Online Library (Restricted Access)

Craib, Raymond B. Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y el Caribe 17(2) (July-December 2006): 145-148. – Full Text: Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y el Caribe (Free Access)

Ferry, Elizabeth E. Anthropological Quarterly 79(3) (Summer 2006): 561-564. – Full Text: Project MUSE (Restricted Access)

Garces, Chris. Material Religion 5(2) (July 2009): 236-238. – Full Text: ingentaconnect (Restricted Access)

Hamnett, Brian. »Recent Work in Mexican History.« The Historical Journal 50(3) (September 2007): 747-759. – Full Text: Cambridge Journals Online (Restricted Access)

Monagan, Alfrieta P. American Ethnologist 35(1) (February 2008): 1004-1007. – Full Text: Wiley Online Library (Restricted Access)

Nájera-Ramírez, Olga. American Historical Review 111(1) (February 2006): 243-244. – Full Text: Oxford Journals (Restricted Access)

Timmons, Patrick. »The Meanings and Experience of Violent Deaths in Twentieth-Century Latin America.« Latin American Research Review 42(1) (February 2007): 224-237. – Full Text: Latin American Studies Association (Free Access)

Wenger, Tisa. Western Historical Quarterly 37(1) (Spring 2006): 89-90. – Full Text: JSTOR (Restricted Access)

Wikipedia: Juan Soldado