Valente Quintana: The Legendary Mexican Holmes Who Solved Impossible Crimes

Valente Quintana

Credit: Shutterstock; illustration by Nuestro Stories.

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains must be the truth," said the famous investigator Sherlock Holmes. But for Valente Quintana, considered the Mexican Holmes, eliminating the impossible was not always so easy.

Known for always being on the trail of criminals in 1920s Mexico, Quintana chased ingenious thieves, interrogated assassins, and confronted all kinds of fakers.

Valente Quintana and the impossible crimes

It was 1921, and the government of Álvaro Obregón was beginning. Mexico felt that peace had finally arrived, but criminal life was boiling in the underground of its cities. Between crimes of passion, political assassinations, and elaborate robberies, Sherlock Holmes himself would have felt lost.

But not Valente Quintana.

Born in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, in 1890, Quintana moved to Brownsville, Texas, with his family after finishing elementary school. They crossed the border looking for better economic opportunities. He held various jobs until he was blamed for robbing the cash register at the grocery store where he worked.

The young Quintana solved the crime thanks to his intuition and intelligence and decided to pursue a career in criminal investigation. He studied at the Detectives School of America and, upon graduation, worked for the American Bureau of Investigation.

His skills were such that he was considered for the position of commander. However, upon learning that he had to renounce his Mexican nationality, Quintana decided to return to Mexico in 1917.

Valente Quintana, the Mexican Sherlock Holmes

Image courtesy of "El Universal Ilustrado."

A crime wave puts the young detective's talents to the test

Just as he arrived, a wave of automobile thefts took Mexico City by storm. One of those affected hired Quintana to solve the case. The detective resorted to a paint trail on the cars that outlined the direct route to the criminals' home.

But the case that would make his name was the Laredo train robbery. A gang of criminals had made off with a haul of 100,000 pesos in gold and silver, and the news had crossed the border into the United States.

The criminals killed eight soldiers and two civilians. And solving the case earned Quintana the nickname "The Mexican Sherlock Holmes."

"Out of tenacity, I was able to successfully obtain the posts of assistant, second agent, third agent, group chief, agent commander, and Chief of the Security Commission," Quintana said in an interview with "El Universal Ilustrado" in April 1925.

Ten years later, Valiente Quintana already had a private law firm that solved all kinds of cases — from the smallest to the most complicated. His adventures led him to fight duels to save a kidnapped pulquero and even to disguise himself as a lumberjack to uncover a gang of criminals.

A brilliant career

The cases that made the Mexican investigator famous include the assassination of Alvaro Obregón in 1928 and the murder of student leader Juan Antonio Mella.

His name was on everyone's lips, and if any crime happened, people used to say, "Ah, if Quintana were in charge of the Police!"

However, his fame also put him in trouble.

In March 1925, Víctor Castillo, alias "El Raja Pescuezos," accused him of having Teodoro Camarena, head of a criminal gang captured by Quintana four years earlier, killed.

The detective was sent to the Belen prison where up to 100,000 criminals he himself had arrested were imprisoned, according to "El Universal Ilustrado."

Quintana was released a week later but was again accused six days later of corruption.

These accusations forced him to resign from his position at the Police Inspectorate. 

Although he eventually returned to work for the Federal District Police, Quintana retired to take charge of the National Bureau of Investigations he had founded in 1926. 

Quintana solved cases until he died in 1969.

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