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You Can Open a Business in a Former Mexican Narco Mansion

The rent is really, really cheap.

All photos by Nathaniel Janowitz

The Arellano Félix organization was a family affair, and was at one time among the most powerful cartels in Mexico. During their heydey, the family of seven brothers and four sisters controlled much of the trafficking of cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and meth into the United States. They also owned a large house on the corner of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla street and Teófilo Noris in Culiacan, Sinaloa, in northwestern Mexico. And now you—yes, you—can rent a commercial space in that newly refurbished mansion.


"This house was abandoned for many years," said the rental agent, who asked to remain anonymous. After the government seized the property from the Arellano Félix family, it was bought, renovated, and put back on the market. The owners had originally attempted to convert the 11,000 square foot [1,022 square meters] space into a school, but the Secretary of Public Education rejected the proposal because of the history, according to the rental agent.

"After the attempt to create the school, the property was passed to another realtor, named Cesar Tamayo, and after [that] the owner gave the house to us."

Although the cartel is now based in Tijuana, all the founders were Sinaloans who grew up alongside El Chapo and worked together previously as members of the Guadalajara cartel. After the organization's leader, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, was arrested in the late 80's, the Guadalajara cartel splintered. El Chapo and some of his buddies went on to form the Sinaloa cartel, and the Arellano Felixes created their own. This falling out lead to bloody battles throughout the streets of Culiacan, and possibly even the death of a Cardinal in 1993.

When El Chapo escaped from prison the first time in 2001, the beef intensified and the Arellano Felix organization claimed the government was exerting more pressure on them than other cartels, at the behest of El Chapo. During the 2000's, three of the most prominent brothers in the organization—Benjamin, Francisco Javier, and Eduardo—would be imprisoned; another, Ramon, died in a shootout with police.


If that sounds like too bloody a history for a nice boutique space, don't worry—the family had already moved out of the house by the time things started to get ugly, so there are no lasting bullet holes in the property.

Instead, the building includes a wide variety of spacious and well-lit rooms at varying prices. For only 100 pesos per square meter (or about $0.60 per square foot) you can rent one of two commercial spaces, about 2,700 square feet each [2,508 square meters], located on the prime first floor area, where perhaps the Arellano Felix family entertained their friends and business partners in the past. For the discounted fee of 85 pesos per square meter (or about $0.50 per square foot), there's another available space on the second floor, next to a spiral staircase and overlooking balcony where security guards with automatic weapons may have once stood watch stoically.

If you were hoping to turn this dreamy space into your own Tony Montana crash pad, you're out of luck—commercial businesses only. It's not clear if drug-running qualifies as an eligible business.

All this is yours for the taking in the heart of downtown Culiacan, a city famed for it's billionaire drug traffickers and money laundering. And although the deal seems pretty sweet, none of the spaces have been rented yet, a little more than one month after being put back on the market. Do you want to be the first?

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