The Parthenon of El Negro – Zihuatanejo, Mexico - Atlas Obscura

The Parthenon of El Negro

Zihuatanejo, Mexico

A notoriously corrupt Chief of Police's deteriorating Greek-themed playhouse. 


Strange and opulent spoils came to the Chief of Police known for his flexible sense of morality, but it was all destined to fall into ruin. 

Arturo “El Negro” Durazo Moreno rose to the position of Chief of Police in sprawling Mexico City from 1976 to 1982. Despite holding the job for just six short years, he developed a reputation for egomaniacal behavior and crookedness that would follow him to the grave. From petitioning to become a five-star general despite never serving in the military, to enjoying the kickbacks of an illegal cocaine smuggling ring, El Negro managed to convert Mexico City’s police into a racketeering empire the likes of which had never been seen before. 

All that extra cash had to be funneled somewhere, so El Negro was able to establish a couple of lavish mansions as his personal retreats. His seaside playhouse separated itself from the other retreats along Zihuatanejo’s cliffs thanks to its ostentatious Greek styling. Faux-classical statues decorate the gardens, porticos dripping with flowers shaded walkways, and several pools looked out onto the sea, flanked by curving staircases leading to balconies and private bars. 

Excesses aside, El Negro was fantastic at his real job of crime prevention. In his 2000 obituary, it was noted that a coterie of Soviets went so far as to claim he was “the best police chief in the world.” This wasn’t enough to save him, however, from the 1982 election cycle, when Mexico’s new president ran on a platform of anti-corruption. Fleeing the country, it took two years and the involvement of the FBI before he was apprehended. Convicted on charges of smuggling, possession of illegal weapons, corruption and extortion, El Negro’s Parthenon fell into ruin as its owner languished in prison, never to return to its Corinthian terraces.

Today, it’s possible to approach the manor’s tall gates on foot, where a groundskeeper still frequently presides over the property. For a very small, unofficial fee, he might grant you admittance to all of the Parthenon in its former glory, where patios look out on to empty pools, and murals of Bacchanalia still adorn the walls of a crooked cop’s erstwhile dream home. 

Know Before You Go

There is a road leading up to the house. You may need to ask how to get to the Partenon del Negro Durazo. Take caution when visiting the house. It's best to go with a group, and be aware that parts of the estate may not be in the safest, cleanest conditions.

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