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'Mexico's Alcatraz' to be Turned into a Cultural Center

February 20, 2019

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during his visit to the penitentiary of Islas Marias, off the coast of the state of Nayarit, Mexico. (Photo courtesy of Presidencia / EFE)

Mexico City - President Andrés Manuel López Obrador signed a declaration at his Monday morning press conference closing the federal prison on the Islas Marías, a jail without bars located 60 miles off Mexico's Pacific coast, that was created in 1905 by the then president Porfirio Díaz.

Saying he wanted to promote "more schools and fewer prisons," López Obrador intends to turn the island into learning center for the arts, culture and care of the natural environment.

Unique Flora and Fauna on the Islands

In 2010 the Marías Islands were declared by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve, given that there are a number of interesting endemic species in that territory, among which the Marías rabbit, the Tres-Marías raccoon, the mouse of the Marías, the bobo and cenzontles birds, chameleons, the threatened marsupial Tlacuatzin Canescens, several species of sharks, and the gray whale, stand out.

The islands' flora is varied and includes several cacti species such as cardones, biznagas, organos, nopal and garambullos, as well as mezquite or carob trees, guayacanes, ceibas, palms, wild platanares, mangroves, and poppies.

According to Josefa González Blanco Ortiz Mena, Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat), expeditions and training workshops for students, children and teens will be organized in the nature reserve.

Among the activities that will be implemented in this new center will be survival training, flora and fauna monitoring and socio-environmental studies, along with literary studies, theater activities, creative writing, transformative art, and sports activities.

During the press conference, Lopez Obrador said that the prison currently houses 600 low-risk inmates, of whom 200 will be released in the coming days. The other 400 inmates will be relocated to social rehabilitation centers that are close to their places of origin and their families. As for the workers, he said that they will also be relocated to prisons and jails close to their homes.

Source: Univision