Friday, January 20, 2012

Latin American High Weirdness: The Cults IV

A lot of shady things have gone down in Latin America since the end of the second World War. Of course there are the drugs, the political instabilities and the occasional dictatorship, which the Western media frequently dotes upon. But there has been an even more mysterious undercurrent, one that includes the occult, occult-centric UFO encounters, Nazi war criminals, a whole slew of cults, and of course drugs. among other things. It is a strange current, to say the least. I've covered the UFOs before here, here, and here. Those posts also touch on the Nazis and drugs briefly, as well as a cult centered around the notorious UMMO affair. I touched on the Nazis a bit more on a post concerning the notorious Colonia Dignidad. That was part one of our current series. In part two I addressed the infamous Jim Jones and the mass suicides at Jonestown. In part three I examined the similarities between Colonia Dignidad, Jonestown and various other cults such as the Manson Family (of whom I've written on here and here) and the one that sprang up in Matamoros, Mexico in the late 1980s. For part four, we shall further explore the Matamoros cult that was led by a charismatic individual known as Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo.


The saga of Constanzo was eventually turned into a low budget slasher film called Borderland. This is one of the few cases where the Hollywood depiction was actually tame compared to the real life bloodbath Constanzo left in his wake. Constanzo, a Cuban-American hailing from Miami, would relocate to Mexico in 1984. By 1989 he had built a modest, but ever-growing, drug ring that was centered around the Afro-Caribbean cult practices of Santeria and Palo Mayombe. The cult would include several Mexican celebrities in addition to both fellow drug smugglers as well as several high ranking Mexican police (who were instrumental in the rise of Constanzo). Sacrifice was central to Constanzo's cult -both animal as well as human.

a Santeria ritual

Constanzo was initiated into both the occult and the criminal underworld at a young age. His first teacher was his mother, who was a practitioner of Santeria.
"... Delia Aurora Gonzalez dal Vallee was the idea mother.

"She showed him the way.

"Adolfo Constanzo's earliest childhood memory was not of a favorite toy or a parent's smile, but the gurgling death rattle of a chicken's slit throat, its blood offered up to the ancient African gods. He knew a home filled with decay and blood, inuring him to death. His reward for good behavior was the gift of an animal to mutilate or kill...

"There was the power that shedding blood brought, the essence of Santeria. Give blood to the gods, and they will answer your prayers.

"There was the daily embrace of death and decay inside Delia's filthy and bloodstained home, the basis of Palo Mayombe's magic. Above all, a palero must relish the stench of decomposing flesh, for he must take the evil spirits of the dead inside him, becoming possessed by them."
(Buried Secrets, Edward Humes, pgs. 65-66) 


In addition to being a follower of Santeria, Delia was also quite a frequent small time criminal.
"Mommy was a habitual criminal, with a dozen aliases, innumerable addresses, and no legitimate source of income. She had been convicted of grand theft, writing hot checks, and child neglect, and she has been arrested for criminal trespass, armed assault, and shoplifting (with her daughter, fifteen years old at the time, as an accomplice). Despite her lengthy record, Delia's plethora of aliases, married names, and changing addresses has so confused the court record that she has been treated repeatedly as a first-time offender, then let loose from jail even though arrest warrants on her were outstanding...
"Her pattern of crime stretches across more than ten years and thirty separate court cases, showing how she and her children would let the eviction notices and  unpaid rent bills pile up, then suddenly and quietly leave with their former homes in shambles. Then they would do it again. And again. They would change the locks and the landlords would come to the door and pound and pound. Delia would never answer, never leave until she was just one step ahead of the handcuffs."
(ibid, pg.s 69-70)
Delia saw to it that Adolfo was initiated into high levels of occult practices at a young age, in addition to making ever valuable contacts in the drug trade.
"Adolfo's mother had introduced him to the santeria cult around age nine, with side trips from Puerto Rico to Haiti for instruction in voodoo, but there were still more secrets to be learned, and in 1976 he was apprenticed to a practitioner of palo mayombe. His occult 'godfather' was already rich from working with local drug dealers, and he imparted a philosophy that would follow Adolfo to his grave: 'Let the nonbelievers kill themselves with drugs. We will profit from their foolishness.' "
(Raising Hell, Michael Newton, pg. 105)

a Palo Mayombe shrine, which Adolfo's Haitian padrino would have taught him how to make

Of this godfather, Edward Humes writes:
"Constanzo's Haitian padrino was such a man. He was not interested in love spells or acts of benevolence, only in spilling blood and taking life. He passed that bloodlust on to his young apprentice, dispensing lessons, beatings, and exposure to the macabre in equal measures until nothing had an effect on him. Adolfo took the beatings as if they were a part of growing up; he met the horror with a child's eagerness."
(Buried Secrets, pg. 56)
There's no evidence that pedophilia was a part of the 'lessons' Constanzo's godfather passed on to him, but Constanzo would seemingly embrace his homosexuality shortly after coming into contact with the old Haitian padrino.
"He was still a teenager when he began frequenting homosexual hangouts in Miami and nearby Fort Lauderdale. His handsome square face, penetrating brown eyes, thick shock of red tinted hair and solid youthful body commanded immediate attention when he sauntered into the pickup bars. He had no difficulty attracting lovers for one-night stands, or longer romances of a month or more."
(Hell Ranch, Clifford L. Linedecker, pg. 21)
Some of the darkest speculation surrounding the Matamoros cult was its possible use of children. Rumors of child sacrifice came up in conjunction with the cult from time to time. In addition to his bizarre sex life Constanzo was known to sexually abuse his victims before killing them, so pedophilia doesn't seem to be out of the question. The possibility of child sacrifice in addition to Constanzo's sexuality will be talked about in greater depth in a later installment. For now, I'll wrap up this biographical sketch.

In 1984 Constanzo moved to Mexico City full time after shuttling back and forth between there and Miami for about a year. His star immediately began to rise.
"By mid-1984, Adolfo had moved to Mexico City, where he served as something of a 'psychic to the stars,' earning extravagant fees and living quite lavishly. His fastidiously neat and orderly home in a high-dollar suburb of Mexico's capital was, interestingly enough, located directly across an elementary school. Described as having a magnetic personality, Constanzo attracted an array of famous and colorful people -including entertainment stars, fashion models, transsexual nightclub performers, politicians, businessmen, crime lords, police officials and civil servants."
(Programmed to Kill, David McGowan, pg. 89)
A year before Constanzo moved to Mexico City full time he had already been laying the ground work for his cult by seducing several men who would become key followers.
"A modeling assignment took the handsome young sorcerer to Mexico City in 1983, and he spent his free time telling fortunes with tarot cards in the city's infamous 'Zona Rosa.' Before returning to Miami, Adolfo collected his first Mexican disciples, including Martin Quintana, homosexual 'psychic' Jorge Montes, and Omar Orea, obsessed with the occult from age fifteen. In short order, Constanzo seduced both Rodriquez and Orea, claiming one as his 'man' and the other as his 'woman,' depending on Adolfo's romantic whim."
(Raising Hell, Michael Newton, pg. 105)

Constanzo's 'husband,' Martin Quintana (top), and Constanzo with his wife, Omar Orea (bottom)

In addition to homosexuals and drug dealers, Constanzo's cult was apparently quite appealing to Mexican law enforcement.
"At first glance, the most peculiar aspect of Constanzo's new career was the appeal he seemed to have for ranking law-enforcement officers. At least four members of the Federal Judicial Police joined Constanzo's cult in Mexico City: one of them, Salvador Garcia, was a commander in charge of narcotics investigations; another, Florentino Ventura, retired from the federales to lead the Mexican branch of Interpol. In a country where bribery -mordida -permeates all levels of law enforcement and federal officers sometimes serve as triggermen for drug smugglers, corruption is not unusual, but the devotion of Constanzo's followers ran deeper than cash on the line. In or out of uniform, they worshipped Adolfo as a minor god in his own right, their living conduit to the spirit world."
(ibid, pg. 106)
It was in fact the Mexican police who paved the way for Constanzo's entrance into the lucrative world of drug trafficking.
"In 1986, Florentino Ventura introduced Constanzo to the drug-dealing Calzada family, then one of Mexico's dominant narcotics cartels. Constanzo won the hard-nosed dealers over with his charm and mumbo jumbo, profiting immensely from his contacts with the gang. By early 1987, he was able to pay $60,000 cash for a condominium in Mexico City, buying himself a fleet of luxury cars that included an $80,000 Mercedes Benz. When not working magic for the Calzadas or other clients, Adolfo staged scams of his own, once posing as a DEA agent to rip off a coke dealer in Guadalajara, selling the stash through his police contacts for a cool $100,000."
(ibid, pg. 106-107)
The Interpol man, Florentino Ventura, will be very important a bit later on, so keep him in mind. As for the Calzada family, their association with Constanzo did not end well. Eventually Adolfo came to believe that his magic was the reason for their success. He demanded that the Calzada family split their drug profits with him 50-50. The cartel of course refused, which proved to be a fatal mistake.
"On April 30, Guillermo Calzada and six members of his household vanished under mysterious circumstances. They were reported missing on May 1, police noting melted candles and other evidence of a strange religious ceremony at Calzada's office. Six more days elapsed before the officers began fishing mutilated remains from the Zumpango River. Seven corpses were recovered in the course of a week, all bearing signs of sadistic torture -fingers, toes, and ears removed, hearts and sex organs excised, part of the spine ripped from one body, two others missing brains.

"The vanished parts, as it turned out, had gone to feed Constanzo's cauldron of blood, building up his strength for greater conquests yet to come."
(ibid, pg. 107)
It's interesting to note that the Calzada family was wiped out by Constanzo on Walpurgis Night, one of the chief holidays in northern and central European paganism. Walpurgis Night occurs exactly six months after Halloween.
"In Central Europe it was apparently on Walpurgis Night, the Eve of May Day, above all other times that the baleful powers of the witches were exerted to the fullest extent; nothing therefore could be more natural than that men should be on guard against them at that season, and that, not content with merely standing on their defense, they should boldly have sought to carry the war into the enemy's quarters by attacking and forcibly expelling the uncanny crew."
(The Golden Bough, James Frazer, pgs. 574-575)

Incidentally (or not), Constanzo often referred to himself as a brujo, a witch. Alas, the Calzadas were apparently not big readers of Sir Frazer. As for Constanzo, he quickly moved on (with more help from the Mexican police) and found another drug cartel that was willing to split the profits in exchange for his magical protection. In this case Salvador Garcia, a Federal Judicial Police agent, was the conduit for Constanzo's drug trafficking.
"In July 1987, Salvador Garcia introduced Constanzo to another drug-running family, this one led by brothers Elio and Ovidio Hernandez. At the end of that month, in Matamoros, Constanzo also met twenty-two-year-old Sara Aldrete, a Mexican national with resident alien status in the United States, where she attended college in Brownsville, Texas. Adolfo charmed Sara with his line of patter, noting with arch significance that her birthday -Septemember 6 -was the same as his mother's. Sara was dating Brownsville drug smuggler Gilberto Sosa, at the time, but she was soon wound up in Constanzo's bed, Adolfo scuttling the old relationship with an anonymous call to Sosa, revealing Sara's infidelity. With nowhere else to turn, Sara plunged full tilt into Constanzo's world, emerging as the madrina -godmother or 'head witch' -of his cult, adding her own twists to the torture of sacrificial victims."
(Raising Hell, Michael Newton, pgs. 107-108)

Elio Hernandez (top) and Sara Aldrete (bottom)

It also helped that Elio Hernandez was obsessed with Sara Aldrete, a fact Constanzo was aware of before he even met Aldrete. While Salvador Garcia recommended the Hernandez cartel to Constanzo in addition to supplying him with mounds of intelligence on them, it was actually Aldrete who introduced Constanzo to Elio. Constanzo was aware of Elio's obsession with Aldrete before he even met and seduced to her. In acquiring control of the Hernandez cartel Aldrete was one of the chief tools Constanzo employed. Later on her forced Aldrete to have sexual relations with Elio to ensure the head Hernandez brother's loyalty.

While Aldrete was the head female member of Constanzo's cult, her power was seemingly less than what the media and many researchers have proclaimed over the years. Both of the two accounts I've read on the Constanzo cult, Hell Ranch by Clifford L. Linedecker and Buried Secrets by Edward Humes, indicate that Martin Quintana and Omar Orea were Constanzo's right and left hand, respectively. Aldrete's primary function to Constanzo seemingly was as a means of influence over Elio Hernandez.

Shortly after joining the Hernandez gang human sacrifice became a common feature of Constanzo's cult, of which the bulk of the Hernandez clan joined. Everyone was game from rival drug dealers, police, local farmers, and, eventually, American tourists. The sacrifices went into overdrive when Constanzo was able to set up a temple at the Rancho Santa Elena, an isolated ranch near the Texas border owned by the Hernandez clan and used for storing drugs. Here at least 15 individuals met their deaths typically after being raped and tortured by Constanzo, who claimed that the more his victims screamed, the more pleasing the sacrifice was to his gods. The most noted victim of the Rancho Santa Elena was an American spring-breaker, the 21-year-old Mark Kilroy, who was abducted in Matamoros in 1989 and taken to the ranch. Kilroy's disappearance became big news in the American media (in no small part due to the fact that Kilroy's affluent family included a father who was a chemical engineer and an uncle who was a U.S. Customs supervisor in Los Angeles), but had little to do with the downfall of the Hernandez cartel.
"A popular premed student from Texas, Mark Kilroy was not some peasant, transvestite, or small-time pusher who could disappear without a trace or an investigation into his fate. With family members and Texas politicians turning up the heat, the search for Kilroy rapidly assumed the trappings of an international incident... but it would be Constanzo's own disciples who destroyed him in the end...

"On April 9, returning from Brownsville, Texas, meeting with Constanzo, cultist Serafin Hernandez drove past a police roadblock without stopping, ignoring the cars that set off in hot pursuit. Hernandez believed el padrino's line about invisiblity, and he seemed surprised when officers trailed him to his destination in Matamoros. Even so, the smuggler was arrogant, inviting police to shoot him, since the bullets would merely bounce off.

"They arrested him instead, along with cult member David Martinez, and drove the pair back to Rancho Santa Elena where a preliminary search turned up marijuana and firearms. Disciples Elio Hernandez and Sergio Martinez stumbled into the net while police were on hnd, and all four were interrogated through the evening, revealing their tales of black magic, torture, and human sacrifice with a perverse kind of pride."
(ibid, pgs. 109-110)

Mark Kilroy

Needless to say, curious discoveries awaited the police when they next returned to Rancho Santa Elena.
"The Matamoros cult was first exposed in early April 1989. Police searching the ranch on April discovered  drugs and occult paraphernalia. Returning on April  9, authorities arrested four members of the cult, all of who were members of the Hernandez drug family. Two days later, the first bodies were exhumed from Rancho Santa Elena. Some of the victims had been beheaded, while other had been grotesquely disfigured by machete blows to the head. Brains, hearts, lungs and other internal organs had been cut or torn from many of the bodies, and some of these were found stewing in cauldrons in a shed at the ranch. Spines had been ripped from the decomposing corpses to fashion ceremonial necklaces. One victim was reportedly boiled alive, anothere searching the ranch on April discovered  drugs and occult paraphernalia. Returning on April  9, authorities arrested four members of the cult, all of who were members of the Hernandez drug family. Two days later, the first bodies were exhumed from Rancho Santa Elena. Some of the victims had been beheaded, while other had been grotesquely disfigured by machete blows to the head. Brains, hearts, lungs and other internal organs had been cut or torn from many of the bodies, and some of these were found stewing in cauldrons in a shed at the ranch. Spines had been ripped from the decomposing corpses to fashion ceremonial necklaces. One victim was reportedly boiled alive, another skinned alive; all were mutilated to varying degrees.

"These victims included the owner and secretary of a company that served as a front for a cocaine-processing lab, an informant for the Federales and his mistress, two federal narcotics officers, three former police officers, and the American nephew of a U.S. Customs agent..."
(Programmed to Kill, David McGowan, pgs. 89-90)

objects found at Rancho Santa Elena

This triggered the beginning of a massive manhunt in both the United States and Mexico for Constanzo and the remaining members of his cult. U.S. authorities seemingly did everything in their power to sabotage the investigation. At one point a U.S. Customs agent announced to the press a tip the DEA had received that Constanzo was headed back to Miami. This seemingly had been Constanzo's plan, but he quickly scrapped it when the news broke. This was characteristic of U.S. authorities during Constanzo manhunt.
"Although the daily press never caught wind of it -preoccupied as it was with revelations of mass murder and mutilation -the task force hunting the killers was shattered within ten days of its formation. Chances to capture Constanzo in Miami and Malio in Brownsville had been squandered. The U.S. end of the cult investigation crumbled in disarray and the investigators ended up stabbing one another in the back..."
(Buried Secrets, Edward Humes, pg. 290)
The Mexican police did not fair much better. They stumbled onto the Matamoros cult by accident and they essentially brought Constanzo down by accident.
"... On May 6, police searching for a missing child are said to have inadvertently stumbled upon the apartment hideaway of Constanzo and four of his followers in Mexico City. Shots were allegedly fired from the apartment, which resulted in nearly 200 police officers virtually instantaneously surrounding the building.

"A ferocious gun battle ensued, with thousands of rounds fired in a forty-five minute exchange. Amazingly though, none of the cultists were shot and only one officer was wounded -and that was in the initial gunfire that came from the apartment. Constanzo and his male lover were reportedly executed in a closet on the orders of the high priest himself. The three survivors were captured alive and charged with a multitude of crimes. Reports immediately surfaced claiming that Constanzo had faked his death, by substituting the body of another cultist. The two bodies in the closet had been riddled with automatic weapon fire, making identification difficult. Mexico City newspapers carried reports of witnesses claiming that two men had been seen fleeing the scene of the shoot-out. The body identified as Constanzo's was claimed by U.S. consular officials -allegedly acting on behalf of Constanzo's mother -and flown to Miami to be promptly cremated."
(Programmed to Kill, David McGowan, pgs. 90-91)

the bodies of Constanzo and his 'husband,' Martin Quintana
 The cult member who died with Constanzo was Martin Quintana, Constanzo's 'husband.' Two of three surviving cult members of the Mexico City shootout were Sara Aldrete (who claimed she was being held hostage by Constanzo at this point) and Constanzo's male 'wife,' Omar Orea. Orea would go on to die of AIDS during his trial while Aldrete is presumably still roting away in some Mexican prison somewhere.

And that is generally where the Constanzo saga ends. Many are happy with this as they prefer a neat ending to such bizarre and horrific events. But there was nothing neat about Constanzo's cult or the ending (or lack therefore of). In fact, we've only begun to scratch the surface of the high strangeness surrounding Aldofo Constanzo. In part five of this series I'll discuss more of that strangeness as well as where Constanzo fits into the grand scheme of things. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. I am staying tuned! ;D
    God knows what everybody else's excuse is!

    Nice writing.. Gracias.