Under normal circumstances, it would be difficult not to stare at ten men dressed in black who brandished submachine guns. Under normal circumstances, ten men dressed in black who brandished submachine guns would be the sort of thing that caught a person's eye.
Around 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4, 2005, at the entrance to Club Campestre, Tijuana's country club, while young mothers ushered their children to tennis and swimming lessons, ten men dressed in black, brandishing submachine guns, swarmed the club's entrance and abducted 34-year-old Ivan Escobosa. They abducted Escobosa from the entrance's polished green-slate steps, only a few yards from where two dozen color and black-and-white photos mounted on the lobby's walls illustrate the club's 57-year history. Also on display that afternoon, near the lobby's entrance, stood a tripod displaying the portraits of Club Campestre's 17 "Debutantes of 2005."
According to a Los Angeles Times account of the abduction, Escobosa's screams were so loud that "they were heard in the chandeliered dining room nearby." The gunmen shoved Escobosa into one of their black vehicles and crashed through the security gate at the club's entrance and disappeared into the heavy traffic on Boulevard Agua Caliente. Three days later Escobosa's body was found beside a Tijuana highway. News reports stated that Escobosa's body showed signs of having been "badly beaten" and "asphyxiated," that his head was covered with a "yellow plastic bag."
Someone who witnessed Escobosa's abduction told me that he remembered something else about that afternoon.
"What I remember is that as soon as people realized what was going on, they all looked away. They made a point of not looking at the gunmen. They looked away."
"The gunmen," this person said, "were not wearing masks."
Someone else who saw the abduction told me, "One person did look at the gunmen. Guillermo Guevara, the club's general manager, went outside and confronted the gunmen. They were disturbing his club, and they were attacking a guest at his club. Guillermo was very brave. He takes his responsibilities very seriously. He went right up to the gunmen and asked who they were. He told them he was going to write down their license plate numbers. One of the gunmen pointed his gun at Guillermo's face and said, 'If you take down our license plate numbers, we'll come back tomorrow and kill you.'
"Later I said to Guillermo, 'Don't be a hero.'"
Guillermo Guevara, on the morning I met him several weeks after the incident at Club Campestre's entrance, didn't seem like a hero. Dressed in a crisp aqua-blue guayabera, his silver hair neatly combed, his silver mustache precisely trimmed, Guevara was handsome, and deferent, or respetuoso, in the way that Mexican middle-class men are often respetuoso. Like several people I spoke to while learning about Club Campestre, Guevara wasn't entirely at ease with our conversation.
"I started this job only four months ago," he said. "I don't know everything about Club Campestre. I'd like to keep this interview as informal as possible."
While I asked Guevara about his duties at Club Campestre, he took a Post-it note and on it wrote, in a very deliberate way, the names of the six country clubs in Mexico City and Guadalajara where he'd held various management positions since 1970. He told me that while Campestre was the largest Mexican country club on the border, its $14,000 initiation fee and $300 monthly dues were much less than the fees and dues at other clubs in Mexico. In Mexico City, he said, country club initiation fees can be as high as $220,000, and monthly dues as much as $600.
"But even though we're less expensive than other clubs in Mexico, we offer a high standard of service."
He told me that he managed 265 employees and that around 3000 people, or 807 families, belonged to Campestre, and of those 807 families, about 20 percent lived in San Diego. Of those 3000 members, about 500 used the club each day, "for golf, tennis, swimming, the gymnasium, the bar, the restaurant, everything." He said the club hosted, on average, two private events each day -- parties, meetings -- for anywhere between 100 to 500 people, and that the restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, each day prepared approximately 200 meals.
"Most of our members," he said, "come here to play golf."
Guevara indicated that he wasn't comfortable talking about what happened on May 4, 2005, that he felt it best that Campestre's president, Dr. Fausto Gallardo, discuss the matter with me. Guevara did hand me over to Ramiro Marquez, his maintenance manager, to show me around the club.
"Only members and their guests can use the golf course, gym, and swimming pool," Guevara said. "But we're otherwise completely open to the public. You're welcome to look around at anything you'd like."
It was only after I got up from my seat in Guevara's office that I noticed that, high on the wall behind me, a bank of closed-circuit televisions displayed a continuous stream of images captured by security cameras posted at a number of locations around Club Campestre. From several different angles, cameras monitored the club's entrance. Guevara's desk faces the bank of closed-circuit televisions. On the afternoon of May 4, 2005, Guevara must have seen what was going on at the entrance before he went outside. Guevara knew what was happening and he went to intervene.
Ramiro Marquez, a man in his early forties with broad shoulders and a firm belly, was wearing dark slacks and a navy-blue polo shirt. He had an easy, fatherly way about him, suggesting that nothing much upsets or riles him.
"Oh, boy," Marquez said and rolled his eyes when I asked about the abduction. "All I have to say is that Guillermo Guevara is a very brave man."
Marquez showed me around Campestre as if it were his home and he had significant pride of ownership. He ushered me through the various banquet halls, Salon Agua Caliente that can hold 1000 people, Salon Oro, 180 people, Salon Minarete, 100 people, and La Terraza Sur, overlooking the golf course, "which is very popular for wedding and baby showers. The women can sit up here and have their party while they watch the men play golf."