Busting Out of Mexico
It Couldn’t Happen This Way In A Million Years
But It Did!
When the American inmates at Piedras Negras talked to Blake Davis, they sometimes caught themselves staring at the jagged, reddened scar that underlined the ridge of his jaw. Blake Davis was ebullient, powerfully built, well liked by the other Americans. Even in moments of discouragement he somehow managed a rueful smile. “Next week” was always the time of Blake’s anticipated departure from the Piedras Negras jail. He always had a scam.
Blake did not mind talking about his scar. He said he’d been arrested near Saltillo and charged with transporting 175 pounds of marijuana. For three weeks, Blake said, he was strapped naked to a bed while federales interrogated him, until finally he signed a Spanish confession he could not read. While he was in prison at Saltillo, Blake claimed he bribed a warden for $2000, but when the tunneling started the warden alerted the guards. Blake said he unwisely cried foul; the warden referred the matter to Mexican inmates who set upon Blake with crude knives and razor blades. Hence the scar. Blake’s tale of horror did not rate him special privileges in the Piedras Negras seniority system. When he was transferred there in August 1975, like all other new arrivals he took a seat on the floor.
When a Mexican attorney arranged his transfer from Saltillo, Blake thought he was destined for a federal prison in Piedras Negras called Penal. But Mexican officials claimed Penal was overcrowded, and they blamed Americans for a November 1974 breakout in which 24 prisoners tunnelled to freedom. Blake Davis was thus assigned to the Piedras Negras municipal jail. Inside the jail were five cells for men, one cell for women, and a drunk tank, each of which measured eight feet by nine. The windowless cells contained four bunks, a toilet, a water faucet, and from six to twelve sweating, panting, claustrophobic prisoners. Mexican national inmates were eventually transferred to Penal, but the Americans waited for enough seniority to occupy one of the bunks. When they moved around their cells they shuffled. They never breathed fresh air, never saw the sky.