Islas Marías Federal Prison

The Islas Marías (“Mary Islands”) are an archipelago of four islands that belong to Mexico. They are located in the Pacific Ocean, some 100 km (62 mi) off the coast of the state of Nayarit. They are part of the municipality (municipio) of San Blas, Nayarit. As of 2011, the islands are still being used as a penal colony, containing the Islas Marias Federal Prison.

The Islas Marías Federal Penal Colony is a penitentiary establishment of the Federal Government of Mexico, administered through the Federal Secretariat of Public Security. It is located on Isla María Madre, the northernmost and largest island in the Marías Islands archipelago.

Built in 1905, under the government of Porfirio Díaz, the prison of las Islas Marías was “the pride of the government” becoming the most modern prison model of its time, “escape proof”, which operated as an alternative to house the delinquents, who due to their profile and background, could not be held in the prison of Lecumberri.

Until 1950 this prison colony was known as a feared detention centre, due to violence, disease, and forced labour. It is calculated that the total number of prisoners to be housed there is above 29,000 .

During the government of Ernesto Zedillo the government decided to modernise the prison system and Islas Marias was deactivated. On 27 November 2003 it was declared a biosphere reserve but with the prison system still existing.

The prison situation in Mexico became so critical that the government announced in 2004 that they were reactivating the Islas Marias prison to transfer 2,500 prisoners from prisons all over the country.

Prison escapes

The prison has had at least 76 escapes in the last 25 years of which 29 took place in 1986 alone. According to newspaper reports the causes are minimum vigilance, shortage of guards and equipment. Among the most dangerous to escape were criminals sentenced for drug trafficking, 28 murderers, and kidnappers. Of the 76 escapees from the Islas Marías only 10 have been recaptured. According to one source 95% of the escapes are due to corruption.

  • On 25 October 1986, an entire family of kidnappers escaped. The Reyes Servín brothers, from Michoacán, have never been caught.
  • On 16 January 2006, three drug dealers managed to escape. These were José Abraham González Salas, Fernando Méndez del Fierro and Luis Rey López Barrera. González Salas and Méndez del Fierro were sentenced in California, United States. Through the program of interchange they were transferred to the state of Michoacán. González Salas had been sentenced to 24 years for traffic of methamphetamines and heroin. Méndez del Fierro had been sentenced to 18 years for possession and distribution cocaine. Coming from San Luis Potosí, López Barrera entered the Islas Marías on 7 October 2000. He had been sentenced to 11 years and three months for possession and transport of marijuana.
  • On November 24, 2011, six inmates tried to escape using plastic containers as flotation devices. They were reportedly carried by currents about 60 miles south of the island. A passing boat tipped authorities and they were promptly returned to the island prison.
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Islas Marías Federal Prison, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

The 2011 San Fernando Massacre

The 2011 San Fernando massacre, also known as the second massacre of San Fernando, was the mass murder of 193 people by Los Zetas drug cartel at La Joya ranch in the municipality of San Fernando, Tamaulipas, Mexico in March 2011. Authorities investigating the massacre reported numerous hijackings of passenger buses on Mexican Federal Highway 101 in San Fernando, and the kidnapped victims were later killed and buried in 47 clandestine mass graves. The investigations began immediately after several suitcases and other baggage went unclaimed in Reynosa and Matamoros, Tamaulipas. On 6 April 2011, Mexican authorities exhumed 59 corpses from eight mass graves. By 7 June 2011, after a series of multiple excavations, a total of 193 bodies were exhumed from mass graves in San Fernando.

Reports mentioned that female kidnapping victims were raped and able-bodied male kidnapping victims were forced to fight to the death with other hostages, similar to ancient Roman gladiators, where they were given knives, hammers, machetes and clubs to find recruits who were willing to kill for their lives. In the blood sport, the survivor was recruited as a hitman for Los Zetas; those who did not survive were buried in a clandestine gravesite. After the massacre, thousands of citizens from San Fernando fled to other parts of Mexico and to the US. The Mexican government responded by sending 650 soldiers to San Fernando and establishing a military base in the municipality. The troops took over the duties of the police force in the city and worked on social programs. In addition, a total of 82 Zeta members were arrested by 23 August 2011. In 2012 tranquillity slowly returned to the city, along with the inhabitants who fled because of the violence.

Mexican authorities are not certain why Los Zetas decided to abduct people from buses, and then torture, murder and bury them. They speculate that the Zetas may have forcibly recruited the passengers as foot soldiers for the organisation, intending to hold them for ransom or extort them before they crossed into the US. The killers, however, confessed that they abducted and killed the passengers because they feared their rivals, the Gulf Cartel, were getting reinforcements from other states. One of the leaders confessed that Heriberto Lazcano, the supreme leader of Los Zetas, had ordered the investigation of all buses coming in through San Fernando; those “who had nothing to do with it were freed. But those that did, they were killed.” In addition, the killers claimed to have investigated passengers’ cellphones and text messages to determine if they were involved with the Gulf Cartel or not, and that they were particularly worried about buses coming in from the states of Durango and Michoacán, two strongholds of the rival La Familia and the Sinaloa Cartels.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article 2011 San Fernando massacre, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

The High Priestess of Blood

In May 1963, fourteen-year-old schoolboy Sebastian Guerrero was wandering around the mountains in the northeastern state of Nuevo León in Mexico, when he heard a significant amount of unusual noises coming from one of the caves.

What he saw caused him to immediately run to the nearest police station, approximately 17 miles away in the town of Villa Gran to inform them. Despite initially being sceptical, the police sent investigator Luis Martinez with Sebastian to find out what was going on. This was the last time either of them were seen alive.

The Hernandez brothers

Santos and Cayetano Hernandez were two brothers who spent the early 1960s travelling around Mexico scamming and conning people in small towns out of money before they upped and left, moving onto the next and repeating. Towards the end of 1962, they reached Yerba Buena, near Monterrey in Nuevo León.

Yerba Buena in 1962 was a tiny farming community of around 50 individuals who all lived in poverty. They were mostly cut off from the outside world and the inhabitants were nearly all illiterate. Cars were rarely seen in the area and there was little, if any, electricity at all. Candles were still used as the main light source at night.

Location of Yerba Buena in Mexico

Location of Yerba Buena in Mexico

These petty criminals preyed on the naivety of the locals by claiming to be prophets sent by powerful Incan gods. In exchange for prosperity, they asked the townspeople to worship them and provide them with tribute. They promised that, in the mountains there were hidden treasures, and they would be given to the villagers as long as they stayed devoted to the brothers.

The Incas were not historically from Mexico, rather thousands of miles to the south in modern-day Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and Colombia. Despite this, the locals believed the claims of the Hernandez brothers and began to help them set up temples and clearing out caves in the nearby mountains for their rituals. Their rituals included consuming copious amounts of peyote, a type of hallucinogenic cactus, and taking many locals as sexual slaves.

For months, Santos and Cayetano were revered until there began to be unrest, and the people of Yerba Buena became impatient with the lack of noticeable improvement of life. The brothers had two options; run away to another town, or double-down and try to carry on the scam. They headed to nearby Monterrey, the state capital, in order to find help.

Magdalena from Monterrey

In Monterrey, the brothers found Magdalena Solís, described at the time as a “pretty teen-aged” woman working as a prostitute and Eleazar, her brother, who was working as her pimp. They all planned to head back to the caves of Yerba Buena to perform a ritual in which Magdalena would take on the role of a goddess which they would summon. This, they hoped, would convince the locals that they were being truthful, in order to keep extorting money, belongings and sexual favours from them.

Magdalena Solís

Magdalena Solís

Using flash powder to conjure a literal smokescreen, Magdalena appeared before the shocked onlookers and convinced them that she was the reincarnation of the Aztec goddess Coatlicue. A shift in hierarchy began to take place as Magdalena was now seen as the new leader, and the three men who were in on the illusion were now her “high priests”.

Death in the mountains

When two members of the local community requested that they be allowed to leave the village as they had enough of the sexual abuse, Magdalena ordered that they were to be killed in order to stop them. The devoted believers followed through with Magdalena’s wishes and the two “dissenters” were lynched. The power that she had over these people began to get to Magdalena and it appeared that she began to believe her own lies. In a short amount of time, the rituals that she led were no longer just sexual in nature, she required that any “dissenter” was sacrificed. The victim was to be beaten, burned and cut open in front of everyone present. These organised murders were to get rid of the non-believers as well as to scare everyone else into conforming. The rituals began to evolve as Magdalena started to remove the hearts of her victims when they were still alive, and consume the blood of the sacrificed. She claimed this was necessary in order for her to become immortal.

Aztec ritual human sacrifice portrayed in the Codex Magliabechiano.

The last sacrifices

One of the last times that this ritual took place was in late May 1963. The victim was hacked to death with a machete and their blood was mixed with the blood of a chicken and consumed by Magdalena and her high priests. Unbeknownst to anyone, this was all being watched by shocked schoolboy, Sebastian Guerrero, who had stumbled across the cave by chance.

Sebastian ran to find police, who did not believe the terrified young man, almost incoherent in his panic. His ramblings of “vampires” in the mountains left officers believing that he himself had taken hallucinogens. Investigator Luis Martinez was given the task of taking Sebastian home and seeing what was in the mountains for himself.


When Luis Martinez didn’t return, the police sent people to Yerba Buena. Here they found armed townspeople holed up in the caves. A gunfight ensued in which the police had to recruit the Mexican army to help. After a bloody battle which left various members of the village, including Santos Hernandez dead, the police began to investigate what had been going on in Yerba Buena.

The mutilated bodies of Sebastian Guerrero and Luis Martinez were found near to a farm where Magdalena and Eleazar Solís were caught and taken into custody. The body of police investigator Martinez was found to have had it’s heart removed in a similar vein to the other sacrifices performed.

The other Hernandez brother, Cayetano, was found to have been murdered in the panic created when the police advanced on Yerba Buena. A local by the name of Jesus Rubio had killed him in order to take a body part of a “high priest” in the belief that it would save him.


Magdalena told police that she was the reincarnation of El Niño Fidencio, a famed Mexican curandero, a type of faith healer, who had died 25 years before.

Eleazar, at first, claimed to not be related to Magdalena but eventually confessed to being her brother. He claimed that he told people he was the reincarnation of St Francis of Assisi.

Magdalena and Eleazar Solís were both convicted of the murders of Sebastian Guerrero and Luis Martinez and sentenced to fifty years in prison. Despite the finding of six other dead bodies, mutilated in similar ways, they could not be found guilty as none of the villagers were willing to testify.

Twelve other people from the village who had been taken alive by police were each sentenced to thirty years in prison on six counts of “group or gang murder, or lynching.”