I recently travelled through Mexico with my friend Wout. We stayed for a while in the seaside town of Zihuatenejo, which is home to an unusual abandoned villa.
Known locally as the Parthenon thanks to its faux Greco-Roman appearance, the massive columned structure looms over Zihuatenejo Bay from one of its surrounding hills. We were told this unusual building originally belonged to a corrupt police chief back in the 1970s, but was eventually seized by the government. Today, it is slowly crumbling apart.
Intrigued, we made our way up to the abandoned villa. After talking to the guard who is permanently posted there (and after greasing the wheels a little… by giving him a little bribe) we were given entry to the site.
The Parthenon’s insanity all starts with the front gate, which is ostentatious to say the least. As you walk up the road towards the gate, you immediately sense that the person who lived here couldn’t have been anything other than a power-mad Godfather/Berlusconi-esque figure.
Inside we found a friendly guard dog, as well as a wild garden with decaying classical statues.
The original owner, police chief Arturo “El Negro” Durazo, apparently made millions through extortion and kickbacks. He was known for his egomaniacal ways, such as demanding personal convoys and even asking the president to make him a 5-star general without ever having been in the military (a wish that was granted).
The ostentatiousness of the villa definitely fits his character profile. Here is the entrance, partly overgrown.
As you enter through the main hallway, there are replica statues and murals on either side, with a view of the sea straight ahead. According to the guard, the pedestal used to have a statue of Satan on it, but this had been removed. (I was not sure if he was joking.)
What went on here back in the day? Shady deals? Orgies? We can only guess. According to legend, some people were murdered in the pool, which is now filled with algae.
The smaller building on the right used to be a disco.
Some more photos below of the interior…
A mural of a centaur… because why not?
In front of these columns used to be giant curtains that could be used to close off the villa from the outside world.
Want to see it for yourself?
While this location is technically off-limits, it is pretty easy to find. If you take the boat accross the bay to Playa Las Gatas, you can see the building on the side of the hill. But to get there, approach the hill from the town side, walk up, and ask locals for directions. Give the guard some pesos and he will probably let you in.
If you want to know more about Arturo Durazo “El Negro” Moreno: his other palace in Mexico City has been turned into a museum.
The Parthenon can be seen east on Zihuatenejo bay.