Friday, June 9, 2023

Mexico rediscovers island prison as Pacific tourist draw

by Raquel Cunha and Brendan O’Boyle

ISLAS MARIAS, Mexico (Reuters) – One of Mexico’s most infamous prisons begins a new chapter this weekend as it migrates to the Pacific Ocean following a makeover aimed at bringing tourists to the former penal colony.

President Andres Manuel López Obrador opened the Islas Marias Tourist Center on Friday evening to transform a decades-old federal prison in the Islas Marias archipelago into an eco-attraction and place for history buffs.

López Obrador said this week, “It is tourism for the sake of visiting, to be with nature.” “To recreate history, it’s something extraordinary, extraordinary.”

As well as villas to accommodate guests, a restaurant, a cafe and a beach, the renovated site includes an arch named after Nelson Mandela, who spent time behind bars on South Africa’s Robben Island before being elected the country’s president. Spent 18 years.

political cartoon on world leaders

“Mandela is an example that even behind prison walls, ideals and change can live on for those who seek to change history,” Mexico’s government said in a promotional video.

Located about 62 miles (100 km) from the western state of Nayarit, the Islas Marias became a prison in 1905 under dictator Porfirio Diaz and was in almost continuous use until it was closed by López Obrador in 2019.

The prison once housed many political prisoners, including José Revueltas, an influential Mexican writer who was imprisoned several times for his leftist activism.

The government has announced tourist packages to the islands, with boats starting next week to the main settlement of Puerto Balleto. The center will be run by the Mexican Navy and is part of a protected UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Mexico has seen a surge in tourists following the pandemic, with international arrivals to the country increasing by 56.4% during the first 10 months of 2022 compared to the same period last year, and by 7.3% compared to 2019.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Boyle; Editing by Dave Graham and Leslie Adler)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters,

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