Check out our new site at openwaterswimming.com

Isla María Madre

From Openwaterpedia

Isla María Madre is the largest and northernmost island of the Islas Marias archipelago off the western coast of Mexico in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the coast of the state of Nayarit. The islands are used as a penal colony, containing the Islas Marias Federal Prison.

In 2010, the Islas Marías was designated a biosphere reserve by the UNESCO.

1,116 people lived on Isla María Madre according to the 2005 census. The other islands in the archipelago are uninhabited. The main settlement is Puerto Balleto with a population of 602. It houses the Islas Marías Federal Prison which was established there in 1905. The other two islands are Isla María Magdalena and, to the south, Isla María Cleofas. The islands were named after three women called Mary in the Bible: Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the wife of Cleopas. The smaller island, Isla San Juanito lies off the north coast of Isla María Madre. Other islands or rocks of the archipelago include Piedra El Morro, Isla Don Boni, Piedra Blanca and Roca Blanca.

The first European to discover the islands was Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, a cousin of Hernan Cortez in 1532, who gave them the name Islas Magdalenas. He found no evidence of prior habitation by the native Americans.

In addition to prisoners, on Isla María Madre there are employees of diverse institutions of the federal government, such as the Secretariat of Public Education, the Secretariat of the Environment, the Secretariat of Communications and Transport, post office, and the Secretariat of the Navy. Another group of settlers is made up of religious ministers and acolytes of the Catholic Church, nuns of the Order of Social Service, and invited teachers, technicians and their relatives.

The colony is governed by a state official who is both the governor of the islands and chief judge. The military command is independent and is exercised by an officer of the Mexican Navy.

All populated places of the Islas Marías are on Isla María Madre.