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Adios, La Loma

29 September 2007

Mexico Trucker (the best border-specific site I’ve found yet — though meant for long-distance haulers, it’s much more broad-based than the name might suggest ) picked up the story from the Laredo Morning News (another fine border news source) on the demise of a Nuevo Laredo landmark most tourists were lucky enough never to visit —

… La Loma, Nuevo Laredo’s municipal jail, became known to the general public as some kind of landmark for no good reason. La Loma, nevertheless, is no more.

The four-story jail compound, glorified in verse, song and film through time, was demolished Friday, crumbling to the ground in the middle of a residential area from the blasts of 75 kilos of well-placed dynamite.

La Loma had a capacity of 250 inmates, but the jail population stood at more than 1,000 for decades. A La Loma official at the scene said the facility held 2006 prisoners in 2006.

“You didn’t want to end up there,” he said. “If some youngster was sent there, you generally had the parents or some friend doing everything possible to get the kid out the place. Some notorious criminals were locked in there. The place was the scene of countless breaks, riots, killings and all kinds of abuse.”

A Nuevo Laredo police commandant, who asked not to be identified, said hundreds of U.S. citizens did time in La Loma through the years. He said a well-known U.S. merchandise smuggler killed an inmate with a knife and got sent to solitary confinement.

“After a series of beatings, the man bribed his way out and went to a downtown restaurant, where he was picked up by a friend from Laredo,” the officer said. “Inmates that could afford it, would pay up front for an individual room. Some paid as much as $5,000 or more for a furnished area with telephone, television, toilet and shower. They would send runners for food from restaurants. If they wanted company, that could be arranged, too.”

A Nuevo Laredo historian, Raymundo Rios Mayo, said La Loma inspired the lyrics for several ballads as well as a motion picture, where actor Rodolfo de Anda played the leading character.

A benefit bullfight, staged in a recreational area in 1979, earned a mention in Ripley’s Believe It or Not. The matadors were Raul Salinas Capetillo and Lorenzo Serratos. Capetillo took on the bulls in Mexico under the professional name of El Capete. Serrato performed under the name of El Canario (The Canary). As a result of this event, the two subsequently appeared at a bullring located off Colossio Boulevard immediately east of Juarez-Lincoln International Bridge. Captello and Serratos shared a ‘suite’ at La Loma where they had their bullfighting gear and suits of bright lights (trajes de luz)….

I wonder what El Capete and El Canario were in for…  probably not cruelty to animals. It’s not that off the wall for a couple of matadors to have their equipment with them.  You can usually bring your work tools with you to prison.  I know someone who — as a guest of the state — shared accommodations with a guy in for stabbing somebody.  The stabber was also a chef, with a nice collection of knives to work with (the two of them went into business catering dinners for gangsters.  Ah, Mexico! — the capitalist paradise!)

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