Palacio de Lecumberri

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Palacio de Lecumberri

The Palacio de Lecumberri is a large building, formerly a prison, in the northeast of Mexico City, Mexico, which now houses the General National Archive (Archivo General de la Nación).

Known in popular culture as The Black Palace of Lecumberri, it served as a penitentiary from 1900 to 1976. It was inaugurated by President Porfirio Díaz. The building was decommissioned as a prison in 1976 and turned over to the country's National Archive in 1980. The National Archive is one of the oldest historical archives in the Americas.[citation needed]

Location, design and use[edit]

Blueprint to the Lecumberri Prison
Construction of the Lecumberri prison
Final Completion to the Lecumberri Prison
Construction of the Lecumberri Prison, view from the top

Palacio de Lecumberri is located at the North East border of Mexico City's Federal District. The building was used as a prison from 1900-1976, and as the Country's National Archive from 1980 onwards.

The prison was mainly constructed to contain major political advisers of the opposing side, or other criminals to the nation from the time of operation. Construction began in 1888.

The inspiration and design of the Palacio is by Miguel S. Macedo, who was later on imprisoned there for several months during the Mexican Revolution. The design is said to have been based on that of Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon.[1] This design allows for a single guard to observe all the prisoners without them being able to tell when the guard is looking; they therefore act as though they are always being watched.

The prison was built to hold 800 men, 180 women and 400 children. It had 804 cells, workshops, a nursery, cooking and baking workshops. There was also an area of government, a section dedicated to medical and waiting rooms.

Living conditions[edit]

Photo of a Jail cell from the Lecumberri prison

The Diary of Lecumberri by Colombian Poet Álvaro Mutis, describes his time there after being imprisoned in 1958.[2] The living conditions within the prison were very dangerous due the inmates treatment by the guards or staff. Torture and beating were common[3] Corruption was also present within the prison system.[4]

Inmates[edit]

The majority of the early inmates were political threats to Porfirio Díaz and his Administration. During the "Dirty war" in the 1970s it held left wing political prisoners.[3]

There were a few notable people imprisoned there over the years including: David Alfaro Siqueiros, Juan Gabriel, Roberto "Anulfo" Villegas, Heberto Castillo, Trotsky's murderer Ramón Mercader, Gregorio Cárdenas Hernández and José Revueltas.[5][6]

During La decena trágica in 1913, President Francisco I. Madero and Vice President José María Pino Suárez were murdered while en route to Lecumberri.[7]

Throughout its 76-year use as a prison, only two people escaped alive. The first, Pancho Villa, was a general of the Mexican Revolution who made his escape in 1912.[8] The second was Dwight Worker, an American convicted of smuggling cocaine. With the aid of his then-wife Worker escaped on December 17, 1975, disguised as a woman.[9] They later authored a book about their experiences entitled Escape (ISBN 0-913374-76-8).

National Achieves[edit]

The Archivo General de la Nación (General Archive of the Nation) is charged by the Mexican state to "be the governing body of the national archives and the central consultative entity of the Federal Executive." The writer Edmundo O'Gorman was its general director from 1938 until 1952. It is considered the most important among its class in the Americas and one of the most important in the entire world.[citation needed] In November 1976 the Prison was decommissioned on the order of President Luis Echeverria and turned over to the National Archive in 1980.

The archive houses millions of pages of the country’s documentary heritage. Former prison cells are now used as record repositories and the corridors between them are used as galleries in which researchers can sit and read. In June 2002, 60,000 secret police files held within the archives were opened to the public by President Vicente Fox. The files document the government's actions during the Dirty War.[10][11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ See page 85 of Muy interesante (No. 2, 2008), a Mexican journal for the diffusion of science published by Editorial Televisa Internacional (ISSN 0188-0659.
  2. ^ Alvaro Mutis, Jesse H. Lytle. "Diary of Lecumberri: A poet behind bars". Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Quest for truth in torture rooms of Mexico's Black Palace". The Telegraph. 5 Aug 2002. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  4. ^ Ihrie, Maureen (2011). World Literature in Spanish: An Encyclopedia, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO,. p. 840. ISBN 9780313337703. 
  5. ^ "Historia del Palacio Negro". 29 September 2012. Chilango. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  6. ^ Hansl, Arthur (2001). Sunstroke. AuthorHouse,. pp. ix. ISBN 9781588204639. 
  7. ^ Hern Ndez, , Linda R. (2011). No Me Digas Que Fue Un Sue O. Palibrio. p. 687. ISBN 9781463305901. 
  8. ^ "Pancho Villa". Retrieved 2012-11-05. 
  9. ^ "Ottawa Citizen". 1980-02-16. Retrieved 2012-05-14. 
  10. ^ Florini, Ann (2013). The Right to Know: Transparency for an Open World. Columbia University Press. pp. Chapter 10, pg.2. ISBN 9780231512077. 
  11. ^ Dellios, Hugh (June 29, 2002). "Mexicans scrutinize awful chapters past". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 19°26′11″N 99°06′47″W / 19.43639°N 99.11306°W / 19.43639; -99.11306