Father José Isabel Flores Varela was arrested after a reward was issued by Jose Orozco, the mayor of Zapotlanjejo, for the capture of any priest during the Cristero War (1926–29), when the Church was outlawed and Catholics were persecuted and executed by the Mexican government.
After imprisoned for three days, without food or water, the priest was dragged to a nearby cemetery, where a noose was placed around his neck. He was repeatedly tortured by being lifted by his neck, but lowered before he died.
When one of the soldiers, who had been baptized by the priest, refused to participate in the torture, he was shot.
After the guns jammed and did not fire in a failed attempt to shoot the priest, commander Anastasio Valdivia took a knife and slit the throat of Father José Isabel Flores Varela, in the early morning hours of June 21, 1927.