“Be extra careful when you are in Acapulco. It is a city with a lot of crime. You should also pay a visit to the small town of Taxco, a picturesque town on Mount Azanin. Taxco is only a couple of hours drive south of Mexico City and is known for its silver craftsmanship and colonial authenticity. Zihuatanejo is also worth a visit. It is the quiet paradise mentioned in “Shawshank Redemption” with Morgan Freeman. These were the recommendations I got when we traveled to Mexico, January 2007.
As citizens of the northern hemisphere, we had fled the cold winter and were hungry for sun, heat, sea, and saltwater. We were immediately welcomed by the sun and warmth, arriving in Acapulco after 24 hours of traveling, but the saltwater turned out to be more challenging to enjoy. Although the Pacific Ocean surrounded us, the ocean was anything but calm. The strong underwater currents made it dangerous to swim. Many people drowned annually. And I had been looking forward to playing in the sea with my six-year-old son.
“Take a boat over to the small beach not far from Zihuatanejo. The breakwater keeps the worst waves away. It’s a perfect bathing spot for children and adults,” the locals told us when we got to Zihuatanejo.
On the boat ride, my attention was caught by a majestic building on one of the mountain slopes that we passed.
“What is that house up there? The house with the Greek pillars?” I asked the boat owner.
“A Greek pantheon.”
“A Greek pantheon here in Zihuatanejo?” I had never read or heard about it.
“Such nonsense,” I concluded and again became preoccupied with the beauty around us, the ocean, and the mountain slopes.
Later that day, on our way back to Zihuatanejo, the house with the Greek pillars once again drew my attention.
“What is that house up there? The house with the Greek pillars?” I asked again, this time to a new boat owner.
“I will tell you. When you return to Zihuatanejo, buy some beer and take a taxi until you reach an avenue. Every taxi driver knows that place. Walk up through that avenue until you reach the house. There you will find an elderly man lying in his hammock. He has a black dog. Ask if he can let you in. He does it if you offer him some money and a beer.”
“But what kind of house is that?” I wanted to know.
“Keep it as a surprise,” was his answer.
And we did as he told us, we bought some beers, grabbed a taxi, and followed the dusty road up through the avenue. And there he was, the old man lying in his hammock, just as described, and his black dog announced our arrival. His hammock hung right in front of a parking lot. The parking lot looked more like a car museum with big antique rusty cars. When was the last time someone had used the cars? It was hard to say, but it was easy to spot that they had cost a fortune in their time despite all the rust.
“We would like to look at the house,” we explained in broken Spanish.
“No, no, privado,” replied the old man.
We offered him some money and a beer, which became the key to the house, just as the boat owner had said. It also turned out that the elderly man spoke some English, and the mansion we were given access to, was the abandoned house of the corrupt police chief, Arturo “El Negro” Durazo Moreno. And the pillars I had seen from the boat were part of his Greek-inspired open living room.
Mike Kinsch is the photographer of all these photos. You can see Mr. Kinsch’s photos here.
Arturo “El Negro” Durazo Moreno was Chief of Police in the vast Mexico City from 1976 to 1982. During his six years as Chief of Police, he built several stately houses around Mexico, but “El Negros” pantheon, built upon the cliffs, was outstanding.
“El Negro, chief of police in Mexico City, took home barely $1,000 (£600) a month during his six-year tenure. But the crooked cop pocketed more than $1billion (£600million) through smuggling, trafficking drugs and arms, commissions on police purchases – including uniforms, vehicles, and fuel – and bribes paid by all police to keep their jobs. He also collected the pay of 3,000 imaginary agents and charged the police department for any expenses accrued by himself, his wife, and his lovers. Among his expenditures were the notorious “Parthenon” – a luxurious palace nestled among the cliffs of Zihuatanejo, a resort city on Mexico’s Pacific coast.” stated the Mirror in an article in 2017.
Yes, a luxurious house and a perfect romantic spot for spending time with lovers, that was for sure. Arturo “El Negro” Durazo Moreno must have had a massive appetite for power, mundane goods, and women. Something that could also explain why all the bedrooms had ceilings made of mirrors. But of course, I had to ask.
“Apparently he had some wild parties here, and sex orgies were part of them. The villa also had a bar and disco, right next to the pool, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It is also said that he had some tigers. They were kept in a cage, right next to the entrance of the property. The tigers were fed with people. There are several underground tunnels running from the house down to the harbour. This is how he smuggled in everything he wanted, without being discovered. The tunnels also served as escape routes,” the house guard explained while he showed us around the property.
“What I do not get, is why this magnificent place has not been renovated and used as something else? As a library, a restaurant, or anything just anything.” I wanted to know.
“We believe in bad karma and bad karma lives in these walls. Who will be able to get something good out of such a place? “ he responded.
An answer that was not quite understandable for a foreigner like me, thinking:
“What a place, what a view and such a story! This place should just be used.”
Since this trip was long before I had made a proper system for storing my photos, I, unfortunately, did not find any of my pictures from “El Negros Pantheon.” Still, I found a YouTube video produced by Cody Buffinton and Mike Corey. I will share it with you to give you a taste of the abandoned “palace.” And all the shared photos belong to Mike Kinsch. You can visit his Instagram to see more of his amazing pictures.