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.
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.
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.
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.”