The Islas Marias archipelago is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is famous for its vibrant coral reefs, mangrove forests and rare wildlife found nowhere else on the planet: the Tres Marias raccoon and the Tres Marias rabbit. The reserve is a great spot for watching whale sharks and an important nesting and feeding site for large colonies of birds, sharks and sea turtles.
The islands of the archipelago have a dark past. Often compared to Alcatraz or Robben Island, Maria Madre — the largest of the four islands — until 2019, it was a penal colony for men and women, and sometimes for their families. The prison opened in 1905 and its first visitors were workers on strike against the regime of Porfirio Diaz. Then prisoners accused of petty theft and more serious crimes began to be brought here.
It is known that the floor in the premises was earthen, and there were only five bathrooms for 500 women.
Today, the island looks very different. In 2019, the government closed the prison and converted parts of the existing buildings into a museum and cultural center named after the writer José Revueltas, who was imprisoned here in the 1930s for his involvement with the Communist Party.
The church was whitewashed, the prison buildings repaired. But the construction of new hotels was abandoned so as not to destroy nature.
In three months, this island will open for the first tourists, who, according to the organizers, “will have something to see, do, explore and enjoy” ;.
As an eco-friendly tourist destination, Marias Island hopes to attract divers and nature lovers with tours, hiking, bird watching and art programs. It is promised that the island will be accessible to people with any budget.
Marias Island is expected to open to tourists by July 2022, unless, of course, the hurricane season affects the schedule.