The Mexican Sherlock Holmes

Valente Quintana was one of the best detectives in the world

Valente Quintana, the Mexican Sherlock Holmes
English 28/05/2020 13:23 Mexico City Mauricio Mejía Castillo Actualizada 19:20
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There was not a case he could not solve. One morning, Valente Quintana crossed the U.S. border in search of adventures. He was born in Matamoros, Tamaulipas in 1889 and he had just finished studying elementary school. He arrived in Brownsville, Texas where he worked in a grocery store. When he was charged with robbery, he searched for the evidence to prove his innocence and found the true criminal, one of his co-workers. That was his first solved case.

He enrolled in the Detectives School of America and joined the American Service with excellent grades. He was sent as an agent to Corpus Christi. The efficiency he showed in his first cases got him promoted as commander of the group. However, in order to accept the post, he had to decline the Mexican nationality. He chose to resign from the post.

Back in Mexico, in 1917, he joined the Police General Inspection as a commissioner policeman. In an interview with EL UNIVERSAL ILUSTRADO in April 1925, he remembered his time in that institution. “Out of tenacity, I was able to successively obtain the posts of assistant, second agent, third agent, group chief, agent commander, and Chief of the Security Commission.” The success of his work won him fame among his colleagues and the people of Mexico City.

What he called tenacity translated into a genius that could have amazed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He could either fight a duel to save a kidnapped pulquero and disguise himself as a lumberjack to find a criminal group.

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Everyone knew about his cunning. When he retired from public life and there was a crime, people used to say “Oh! If only Quintana was in charge of the Police! Oh! If only Quintana was assigned this case! Of course, the thieves will continue committing crimes without Quintana!”
 

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The famous Mexican detective Valente Quintana in the 1920s

By the beginning of the 1920s, the Mexican capital was small. All those we belonged to the same work sector knew each other, for instance, the burglars. Likewise, all the sectors had a specific meeting place. Quintana made the most out of this circumstance in order to carry out his investigations. He went about incognito into the bars of poor neighborhoods to listen to the conversations of the attendees. Robberies, homicides, kidnappings, the criminals themselves confessed their crimes to the detective without even committing them yet.

When the capital began to suffer from the first car thefts, Quintana left a Ford vehicle as a bait in a main street, knowing that the criminals would go after it. He found following the print left in the pavement by the paint he had put on the tires.

One day, Valente Quintana received 87 newspapers, owned by tycoon R. Hearts, that had published his biography. It was a tribute from the North American press for his success in finding Clara Phillips, “The Hammer Tigress,” a woman who killed her husband’s lover with a hammer and fled to Mexico. She hid in the capital at the house of some friends. from where she escaped when she knew Quintana was looking for her. She went to Guatemala and then to Honduras, where she was arrested upon the order of the Tamaulipas police officer.

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In March 1925, the excellent name of Mexico’s most famous detective was overshadowed by a claim against him presented by Víctor Castillo, a.k.a. “The Throat Slasher.” The man in question accused Quintana of sending someone to kill Teodoro Camarena, the chief of a criminal group captured by Quintana four years before. The accused let himself be arrested. He trusted there would be justice. He was immediately sent to the Belén prison where, according to EL UNIVERSAL ILUSTRADO, he had sent 100,000 criminals before. Of course, people thought that being in the same prison with them, he could be a victim of revenge. That is why he was locked in a separate cell.
 

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EL UNIVERSAL documented the arrest and transfer of Valente Quintana to the Belén prison

A weel later, EL UNIVERSAL announced Quintana’s release from prison. Six days later, he went back, accused of corruption in the seizing of 1,000 hats from Panama that entered Mexico illegally. Once more, he was released free from all charges.

By then, Valente Quintana had resigned to his post in the Police Inspection. He worked in producing soft drinks at his home. He himself promoted a celery soda of his invention in an interview with the newspaper.

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That same year, EL UNIVERSAL, interested in publishing all the adventures of the famous detective, asked Quintana for his permission to publish them. He accepted and told his memories to Ignacio Muñoz; the first edition was printed in the workshops of this publishing house.

On July 17, 1928, Quintana was called to investigate the identity of a young man who was detained at the Inspection. He had killed Mexico’s president-to-be Álvaro Obregón and the only fact known about him where his initials: J.L.T.

Valente Quintana questioned the young man at his cell with the kindness that was so characteristic of him. He found out that the man was not called Juan but José, José de León Toral.
 

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The famous detective Valente Quintana during the 1950s

Due to the lines of investigation, he followed in the case of De León Toral, Quintana also discovered the identity of the women who were members of the Sacred Heart Brotherhood. Among them was the name of Concepción de la Llata, whom history knows best as “Mother Conchita.”

A year later, in 1929, he was appointed Mexico City’s Police General Inspector by President Emilio Portes Gil. During the year of his administration, he created the Select Squadron for the surveillance of downtown Mexico City, the Police Casino, and the Women's Police, the first of its kind in the world. By the end of his administration, he went back to be in charge of the National Investigations Buffet he founded in 1926 and that was located in the San Juan de Letrán Avenue. At the front of his buffet, he solved every single case he received until his death in 1969.

In his 1925 interview with EL UNIVERSAL ILUSTRADO, Valente Quintana talked about the danger he saw in detective films there were being filmed in Mexico and the U.S., According to him, it was the best school for criminals. But his adventures could not be more inspiring for the cinema. In 1953, the movies “El misterio del carro express” (The Mistery of the Express Car) and “El mensaje de la muerte” (Death’s message) premiered; both of them were based on his investigations.
 

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Valente Quintana interviewed photographer Tina Modotti the day after the murder of Cuban Julio Antonio Mella, on July 11, 1929. Modotti was with Mella when he was shot twice in Mexico City’s streets.

Little is known about his private life. He got married and had children. He lived in the Vista Alegre neighborhood and he was called “The Tultenco detective.” The total number of cases he solved is also unknown.

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