How a Poor Mexican Farmgirl Became a Legend

Juana Ahumada was one of the most legendary bounty hunters in history, yet she came from humble beginnings, and remains an enigmatic figure to this day. She was born in 1884 in Mexico, and lost her mother when she was very young. As the oldest child in her family, she helped her father with the household chores and looking after her younger siblings, while also tending to the farm animals that they owned.


Growing up poor

Born in Mexico, she was raised by her mother on a small farm with only one fruit tree. They were so poor that when Juana and her mother ate dinner, they used corn as salt. She did not have much schooling, because her family could not afford it. As a result, she never learned to read or write, but she still managed to become famous all over Latin America as an Oujia board seer.


Becoming a legend

It sounds like fiction, but it’s not. It all began with one 10-year-old girl from Mexico named Juana Ahumada, who became known as la Dama de la Muerte, or the Lady of Death. She was buried alive for five days by her husband after he discovered she had been cheating on him (gasp!). Once she was resurrected, Dama de la Muerte went on to live for many years after and do some pretty cool things…


What did she do?

If you’re looking for another case study in rags-to-riches, look no further than Juana Maria de Jesus. Born into dire poverty on a mexican farm, she was often beaten and abused by her father. By all accounts, life was unbearable for her there, so when she saw an opportunity to leave and join an aunt in Mexico City, she did—even though it meant walking more than 100 miles.


How did she live?

As if growing up in such dire poverty was not challenging enough, Juana’s mother died when she was only 14 years old. A few years later, while still in her teens, she married a local boy and became pregnant almost immediately with their son. Later she would also bear him two daughters, whom he abandoned to support her and their son alone.

She began making and selling clothing and embroidery as soon as she was old enough to leave home. Before long, her reputation for quality work had spread throughout Mexico, and people were coming from far away to buy garments at her stand.


Why are people interested in her today?

If you need proof that anything is possible, and even long-dead legends can be revived, look no further than Juanita la Loca. (That’s crazy Juana, for those who don’t speak Spanish.) She was an ordinary 18th century farm girl in Mexico — until she wound up in jail for love. From there, her life took some very unexpected turns…and now she’s being hailed as one of fashion’s most influential women. What happened? We have to start at the beginning…