Mexico's Chikatilo prison has been converted into a glamorous tourist resort

Mexican Chikatilo's prison has been converted into a glamorous tourist resort

Once home to some of the country's most notorious killers, including the “Mexican Chikatilo” who killed 100 people, an abandoned maximum security prison in Mexico's Islas Marias Islands has become a glamorous tourist attraction.

According to the Daily Star Once called Mexico's answer to Alcatraz, the abandoned prison of the Islas Marias Islands was nearly impossible to escape due to the island's remote location surrounded by shark-infested waters. Although it is believed that there were attempts to escape and the obstacle course in the form of predators was also successfully completed by the criminals.

Located on the largest of a nearly deserted archipelago of islands that are a five-hour boat ride from the Pacific coastal city of Mazatlán, Islas Marias prison has been closed since 2019. Almost three years later, it reopened as a bio-reserve, a fully protected area and a sightseeing tourist site.

In the old days, the prison saw many famous criminals, but perhaps the most famous of them was José Ortiz Munoz, known as El Sapo – “Mexican Chikatilo”. The massacres of Munoz began when he was only nine years old. The first victim was him, whom he believed the teacher singled out from the rest. Muñoz stuck a compass into the teacher's pet. Then he continued to attack, rape and kill: more than 120 people suffered at his hands. In 1946 he was sentenced to 30 years in prison after he confessed to his heinous crimes and was sent to the island to serve his sentence. According to urban legend, El Sapo was an assassin for the Mexican government who shot about 100 people at protest demonstrations before he converted to Christianity and allegedly repented of his bloody deeds. It is believed that the frog-faced criminal was killed by inmates, his body is buried on the island.

Marias Island has ceased to function as a prison since 2019, but in that time it has been transformed into a glamorous resort, with tourists now roaming the same corridors as El Sapo and his would-be killers years ago. It is hoped that the new attraction, designed by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, will attract curious visitors like Alcatraz in the US.

But the tourist destination isn't just for true crime lovers: the island is huge and looks more like Jurassic Park than a prison due to its vast coastlines and lush green pristine forests and beaches. “This is excursion tourism, here, on the island, we invite tourists to see the life of nature. Recreating history is something exceptional, extraordinary,” Lopez Obrador said in December.

As part of a government project, the maximum security prison was completely renovated to look almost unrecognizable, and guests could stay in chic mini apartments, where some of the prisoners once lived. Excursions are also available for tourists with access to nature, as well as to salt mines, where prisoners were forced to work under the harsh island sun. Weary travelers can reflect on the day over dinner at one of the resort's new restaurants and head to a purpose-built villa to unwind.

Oddly enough, the revamped resort is also dedicated to Nelson Mandela. “Mandela is an example that even behind prison walls, ideals and change can live for those who want to change history,” the Mexican government said.

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