Magdalena Solís

When most of us fall on hard times we turn our heads toward low scale moneymaking ventures such as eBay or Etsy. Thank goodness we live in the technological age where we can have virtual garage sales from the comfort of our living rooms.

But what if we were hard up for cash in the 1960’s? Well… if we lived in Mexico we could found a religion based on ancient Inca beliefs, enslave a local community, and then demand both sexual and monetary tributes. Too much? Not for the Hernandez Brothers and Magdalena Solís. This is exactly what they did in 1963, leaving eight dead, possibly more, and dozens of others with psychological scars.

Magdalena was born into a poor family. Her early years were spent in prostitution with her brother acting as her pimp. While this was happening, the Hernandez Brothers, who also suffered from money problems, set up shop in the rural village of Yerba Buena, a northern Mexican village with about fifty residents. They formed a sect and proclaimed themselves to be exiled Inca gods. The people were told that they would inherit great riches if they followed the Hernandez Brothers and participated in their rituals. The people agreed and thus the cult began. Even though the Inca culture is located in Peru that didn’t stop these Hispanic brothers from taxing their followers: both sexually and monetarily and using heavy narcotics to induce mass orgies. This is unethical in the extreme, but at least nobody was killed.

Enter Magdalena.

As time went on the people grew tired because despite their copious payments they were never reimbursed with riches. So the Hernandez Brothers recruited Magdalena and her brother to help. They agreed and with the help of the Hernandez Brothers she was setup as an Inca goddess. Because the brothers gave her power in the eyes of the public she used that and seized direct control over the sect. From there she directed, and participated in, the killings. The first two victims were a pair of deserters who had grown tired with the cultish ways. They wanted to leave but Magdalena had them hanged instead.

After this the real brutality started. Magdalena became bored with simple orgies so she introduced the idea of the blood ritual, which is actually a practice taken from Aztec culture. Dissenting victims would be beaten, burned, and then killed by the group. This practice quickly evolved into the drinking blood ritual. They did this to gain the power of their enemies. Over the next six weeks, four people were killed this way. Some victims even had their beating hearts removed from their chests while they watched themselves die.

The last two victims were killed in May of 1963. A fourteen-year-old boy saw the ritual while he was exploring the caves around the small town. He ran to the local authorities and told them what he had witnessed. Then the next morning a disbelieving officer escorted him to the caves so the boy could prove what he had seen. Neither was ever heard from again. But at least this got the real attention of the authorities. The government came back with the army. After a shootout, they discovered several dismembered victims lying in the nearby caves, but since none of the sect would testify, Magdalena was only charged with two murders, receiving a fifty-year sentence.

This is an interesting case because without the power of the mob Magdalena would never have had the resources to do this. And without the Hernandez brothers she would never have been put in this position. Does either of these things excuse her actions? Or are her actions simply a reaction to a life of victimization brought on by poverty and a family who treated her as an object? I don’t know. But I think if this would happen with today’s understanding of abuse and torture then the trial would have had a different outcome.