For those of you who have read my book and/or who have followed my posts online know that my cousin Marty Bibbero was busted in 1972 at Mexico City airport with 5 kilos of cocaine concealed in a false-bottom suitcase resulting in his spending the next 5 years locked up in Lecumberri Prison in Mexico City, one of the worst hell-holes on earth. I visited Marty at Lecumberri about a year after his arrest and described the visit and what happened to him in my book. In my story I briefly touch on Marty’s story of how he planned and executed his failed cocaine smuggling venture, and of his experience that followed during his five years of hell at Lecumberri, better known as the Black Palace of Lecumberri. Several readers of my story have told me that reading about Marty was the saddest and most troubling part of my story and the most difficult to read. Although I reported generally about the details of his incarceration, even somewhat graphically, I was really unaware of the magnitude of the terror and horror he really experienced... until now!
For the past 30 years I have known about another prisoner who was arrested like Marty at Mexico City airport in 1973, spent time at Lecumberri while Marty was there and who escaped in 1975 and wrote his story. His name is Dwight Worker. I recently connected with him and he graciously gave me a copy of his book, Escape from Lecumberri. It is written in the first person and graphically and explicitly tells Dwight’s story. I found it to be a very well written, insightful and an emotional horror story with (thankfully) a happy ending. With the exception of Dwight’s re-telling of his successful escape, it was Marty’s story re-told in brutal detail. Whenever Dwight used the word “I” in writing his story, all I had to do when reading it, was substitute the word “Marty” for it to know exactly the horror of what Marty experienced. The realization that Dwight describes in his story was much worse than I could have ever imagined. Dwight grew up in the mid-west and was taught fighting and self-defense skills as a youngster by his father and was at least somewhat prepared for defending himself at Lecumberri...
The realization that Dwight describes in his story was much worse than I could have ever imagined.
Dwight was a fighter, Marty, on the other hand wasn’t even in the slightest. He was even a rather meek individual who, I’m sure, had no idea of what to expect or how to deal with it. He was, in my opinion, like a lamb being led to slaughter. Dwight contemplated escape from the moment he was caught. I can imagine Marty only contemplated dread and despair. Dwight knew Marty for the time they were housed together in the same most brutal and highest security of all dormitories at Lecumberri, Dorm “O”. Dwight concurred with my imagery of Marty and that the brutality he was forced to endure due to his meekness of character, lack of self-esteem and of his submissiveness could have been even worse than his own!
The only other person to have ever escaped from Lecumberri Prison was Pancho Villa in 1912. One of the reasons for Dwight’s successful escape was the fact that no one except Pancho Villa had ever escaped from Lecumberri and for the first few critical hours following his escape everyone thought he had been killed, dismembered and his body parts thrown into the extensive prison sewer system. This story was even relayed to Dwight’s parents who then thought he’d been killed trying to escape... until he called them several weeks later with the astonishing news that he’d escaped and was safely back across the US border. Hence hours were wasted searching inside the prison sewers allowing for the precious time Dwight needed to elude his captors before they come to the reality that he wasn’t there and was indeed the first prisoner to have escaped in over six decades. Even though a nationwide manhunt ensued throughout all of Mexico, Dwight was able to hide out and evade capture, return to the US and live to tell his story; of which he has written about and which there have been two movies made.
I often thought and even suggested to Marty that he write his story, however now having read Dwight Worker’s story, I have come to realize that Marty’s story would have been so sad as to how it turned out that I can imagine it would have been almost unreadable in it’s misery, brutality and depravity told with no happy ending.
Dwight’s story was suspenseful and riveting right through to its amazing, suspense-filled and harrowing conclusion. Marty’s story, if told truthfully, would probably be just the opposite... a sad testimony of the reality of being locked up abroad and brutalized for years suffering the tortures of the damned, then returning home only to suffer excruciating pain as a result of the injuries he received, and finally descending into years of drugs and alcohol in an attempt to find relief but only leading to his sad and early demise.
I’m not sure that it’s made me a better person learning the truth about what really happened to Marty, but at least I now know. The reality is that the risks of smuggling were certainly worth the monetary rewards and personal satisfaction if successful, however the downside if one got caught, especially in a foreign country could far outweigh that and could result in one’s untimely premature demise... and did in many cases. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning about the brutality of Mexican prisons and the reality of surviving that experience, however if you’re squeamish about that you might just leave it to your imagination and take my word for it...
“You don’t have to go to Lecumberri to know that’s a place where you don’t want to go!”
Of note... In November 1976, Lecumberri Prison was decommissioned and the building now houses Mexico’s General National Archives, one of the largest archival collections in the Western Hemisphere. However it is said that the building still houses the ghosts of prisoner’s past who can be seen and who’s screams can be heard from time to time, usually at night haunting that place where eons of brutality, torture, deprivation and human suffering went on virtually unabated for 76 years, between 1900 and 1976.