The Lady of Silence: The shocking true story of the Mataviejitas Murders

Daisy Phillipson
Still from The Lady of Silence: The Mataviejitas Murders

The Lady of Silence: The Mataviejitas Murders is a new Netflix true crime documentary examining a case that rocked Mexico City at the turn of the 21st century and led to the discovery of the most unlikely killer – this is the true story. 

If you’re looking to itch that true crime scratch, then Netflix has plenty in store for you this week, with the release of Missing: The Lucie Blackman Case and the upcoming How To Become A Cult Leader series. 

And that’s not all, as the streamer has also just released a new documentary film detailing the shocking Mataviejitas Murders that plagued Mexico City throughout the early ‘00s. 

Now The Lady of Silence: The Mataviejitas Murders has arrived on Netflix, here’s a breakdown of the case, including the meaning of Mataviejitas, the Lady of Silence, and the Holy Death. Warning: Some may find this content distressing.

The Lady of Silence: Who were the victims of the Mataviejitas Murders?

The killer, dubbed La Mataviejitas, targeted elderly women in the capital of Mexico between 1998 and 2005. Reports estimate that they killed between 42 to 48 people during this time. 

All of La Mataviejitas’ victims were aged 60 or over and many of them lived alone, allowing the killer to get access into their homes before strangling them, often using items from around the house such as telephone cords or bathrobe belts.

As explored in the Netflix documentary, the nature of the crimes was unusual for Mexico. Not only were serial killer cases rare, but elderly women garner a lot of respect from society. 

Susana Vargas, author of The Little Old Lady Killer, explains that the District Attorney Bernardo Bátiz promised to find the killer before he finished his term, as “they are attacking a sector of the population that nobody attacked before, not even criminals.”

Addressing the situation himself, Bátiz says: “There is a general sense of respect towards seniors, especially older ladies. Everybody calls them ‘grandma’ even if they are not their grandmas.”

The Lady of Silence: The Mataviejitas Murders sees emotional testimony given by neighbors, friends, and relatives of the women who were tragically killed at the hands of La Mataviejitas, including María De La Luz González Anaya, 64, Margarita Aceves Quezada, 75, and Ana María de los Reyes, 89.

The Lady of Silence: What does Mataviejitas mean?

La Mataviejitas, the name the media gave to the serial killer before they were caught, translates to ‘little old lady killer’. 

Explaining the translation and pronunciation, Twitter user Maria wrote: “‘Mataviejitas’ ma-taw-vee-ay-hee-taws. ‘Matar’ – to kill, ‘viejitas’ little old women (viejas – old women).”

The Mataviejitas Murders: Who is The Lady of Silence?

After a painstaking investigation, which involved many mistakes along the way, police were finally able to track down and capture La Mataviejitas – and it turned out to be a woman named Juana Barraza, who went by the moniker The Lady of Silence. 

Prior to her arrest, Barraza had a keen interest in wrestling, and she would go by the ring name La Dama del Silencio, translated to The Lady of Silence, a chilling detail in retrospect of her horrific crimes. 

As was uncovered by the authorities, Barraza carried out the murders with ease as she was able to gain the victims’ trust, often by helping them with groceries or posing as a nurse or government worker.

She would then strangle them before stealing items, which initially led the police to believe that robbery was the primary motive. However, upon her arrest and during her trial, it became evident that Barraza’s motive was more likely linked to a deep-seated anger toward her own mother, who reportedly abused her as a child.

The Mataviejitas Murders: What mistakes did police make?

The detectives who were assigned to the case were criticized for the myriad of mistakes they made during the investigation, including presuming the killer was a man and denying the killings were the work of a serial killer.

Early in the investigation, criminologists speculated that the murders were the work of a man, due to the physical strength typically needed to strangle someone. Barraza, a former professional wrestler, didn’t fit this profile. Despite several witnesses describing a masculine-looking woman, police continued to search for a male suspect for a considerable time. 

This biased assumption delayed her capture significantly. What’s more, it led to the assumption that the killer was “a man in a dress”, followed by a shocking and unproductive swoop on Mexico City’s trans sex workers. 

Still from The Lady of Silence: The Mataviejitas Murders
The police were criticized for targeting trans sex workers

Alongside these sinister revelations, the documentary also highlights the denial of officials about the case, with police initially dismissing connections between the murders, arguing they were isolated incidents. As such, many felt they didn’t adequately warn the public about the serial killer despite the increasing number of similar murders.

There was also criticism of the delay in Barraza’s arrest. She was finally apprehended in 2006 when she was seen leaving the house of her last victim, but only after a significant number of elderly women had been murdered.

The Lady of Silence: What happened to the Mataviejitas Murderer?

In January 2006, Barraza was finally caught after a neighbor found her in Reyes’ home. He chased her down the street before apprehending a nearby police patrol car to help. Following her arrest, Barraza went on trial where she was sentenced to 759 years in prison for the killing of 16 elderly women.

It’s believed Barraza is responsible for dozens of murders, but while she went on trial for 30, she was only found guilty of 16, as well as numerous robberies. She currently remains incarcerated at the Santa Martha Acatitla women’s prison.

The Lady of Silence: What is the Holy Death?

Juana Barraza is said to be a devotee of Santa Muerte or Holy Death, a figure of worship and personification of death, often associated with protection, healing, and safe delivery to the afterlife. Although the female deity has received condemnation by the Catholic Church and evangelical movements, she has become increasingly prevalent in modern society. 

When police arrested Barraza, an officer said she got into the back of the cop car and started eating a sandwich while holding an image of the Holy Death. They also found a shrine to Santa Muerte in her home, which led to speculation about whether her beliefs played a role in her crimes. 

Effigy of Santa Muerte or Holy Death
An effigy of Santa Muerte, aka Holy Death

While it is not uncommon for people involved in criminal activities to venerate Santa Muerte, it’s crucial to note that the majority of those who do are not criminals or violent people, but often those seeking protection or solace.

There’s no concrete evidence to suggest that Barraza’s crimes were religiously motivated. Despite her apparent reverence of Santa Muerte, her motivations for killing appear to be rooted in personal psychological issues, particularly her anger and resentment toward her own mother.

The Lady of Silence: The Mataviejitas Murders is available to stream on Netflix now. For more of our true crime and documentary coverage, hit the links below: 

True story of The Lucie Blackman Case | Where is Natalia Grace now? | Who are the Duggars? | Victim/Suspect explained | Missing Dead or Alive explained | True story behind The Playing Card Killer | True story behind Take Care of Maya | HBO’s Burden of Proof explained | How to watch David Fuller: Monster in the Morgue | How to watch the Hart family murders documentary | True story of The Deepest Breath | True story of Last Call

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