Abandoned Alcatraz home to killer who butchered 100 becomes tourist attraction

A Mexico prison that once housed some of the country's most notorious killers is now being turned into a glamorous tourist attraction.

The abandoned Islas Marias prison, once dubbed Mexico's answer to Alcatraz, was almost impossible to escape thanks to its remote island location surrounded by shark-infested waters – although plenty tried and some are thought to have succeeded.

The jail, located a five-hour boat ride from the Mexican shore, saw many infamous criminals walk through its doors, but perhaps the most well-known was José Ortiz Muñoz, known as El Sapo.

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Muñoz's killing spree began when he was just nine years old after he became jealous of a fellow pupil for being the teacher's favourite and stabbed them with a compass.

He went on to assault, rape and murder more than 120 people including shooting more than 100 protesters at a demonstration.

In 1946 he was sentenced to 30 years in prison after he confessed to his horrific crimes and was sent to Islas Marias to serve his time.

According to urban legend, El Sapo later became a hitman for the Mexican government before he converted to Christianity and allegedly repented for his murderous ways.

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However, it wasn't long before he was murdered by other inmates at the world-famous jail, and he is still buried there today.

Islas Marias stopped operating as a prison just four years ago, but in that time it has been revamped into a glamorous holiday resort, with tourists now wandering the same halls El Sapo and his eventual killers did all those years ago.

Dreamed up by Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, it is hoped the new attraction will lure in curious visitors much like Alcatraz in the US.

But the resort isn't just for true crime fans – Islas Marias is surrounded by largely unspoiled nature including forests and beaches.

"This is tourism for excursions, to explore, to live with nature," Lopez Obrador said in December.

"To recreate history, it’s something exceptional, extraordinary."

The project has seen the prison completely revamped to look almost unrecognisable, with guests able to stay in swanky mini-apartments that you'd never guess once hosted some of the prison's more mild-mannered inmates.

Nature excursions are also available for visitors, from early morning hikes to tours of the salt mines where the jailbirds used to spend their days working away.

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Weary travellers can then reflect on the day over dinner in one of the resort's new restaurants before heading back to a purpose-built villa for some shuteye.

Weirdly, the refurbished resort also features a tribute to Nelson Mandela.

"Mandela is an example that even behind prison walls, ideals and change can live on for those who want to change history," Mexico’s government said.


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