• Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

Marquez drove me in a golf cart around the 60-acre course, pointing out the private condos and homes surrounding it. One enormous structure with an elaborate copper roof belonged, Marquez said, to a "Middle Eastern man who for many years had a tobacco concession in Tijuana.

"He died several years ago, and only his wife lives there now. Every year we have a tournament when policemen from San Diego and Los Angeles come down to play. I point out that house to them and say, 'Hey, look. That's where Tijuana's chief of police lives!' Their jaws drop. A lot of them believe me until I tell them it's a joke."

Back at Campestre's offices, Guillermo Guevara handed me a large white book, a 190-page history of the club published in 1998 to commemorate Campestre's 50-year anniversary. The book traces the club's evolution from serving in the late 1920s as the golf course at Agua Caliente Hotel and Casino to its independent incorporation in September 1948, as Club Deportivo Campestre, to the present. The book devotes a great many pages to detailing organizational aspects of the club, such as the writing of its constitution and bylaws, the club's acquisition of land. The book devotes a great many pages to demonstrating that, since its inception, Club Campestre has done everything by the rules and with the greatest possible transparency.

"We're an attractive place for a lot of families in Tijuana who don't belong to Club Campestre," said Genoveva Magana, the club's director of events, the day I met Guevara and Marquez. "If you want to have a party in one of our banquet rooms in December and July, you have to book it at least one year in advance. After Christmas and after graduation, things slow down and we may have as few as only seven private events each week. One of our biggest events is the Debutantes Dance in July. It's a kind of group quinceañera. Every year we have a Queen of Debutantes. They draw the name from a box so that all the girls have an equal chance.

"Club members and nonmembers like to use our rooms because it's so much more convenient than entertaining at their homes. You don't have to clean up before and afterward. We do everything. And we can do everything for, on average, about 25 dollars per plate, not including decorations. You can, of course, spend much more than that, as much as you want, but on average it's about 25 dollars per plate, a choice of beef or chicken entrée. Members receive a 20 percent discount.

"Another thing that makes us so attractive is our parking. At other places, guests either have to pay for parking or there is no off-street parking. In fact, our parking is probably one of the most important things that we have to offer. Our parking is free for guests, and our parking is very secure."

I never did meet Club Campestre's president, Dr. Fausto Gallardo. The first day I visited the club, I left my card with his secretary, who said she would get back to me with a time and a date for a meeting. Over the next several months, Dr. Gallardo's secretary and I spoke by phone at least twice each week. A couple of times each week I'd drive down to Tijuana and drop by Campestre's offices to see if Dr. Gallardo was around. Each time I spoke with his secretary she assured me that soon, very soon, I'd be able to meet Dr. Gallardo. I don't know the exact reason why he never got around to meeting me. I do know that immediately after Ivan Escobosa's abduction, there were rumors that Escobosa had been involved with the Arellano Felix drug cartel. But the details surrounding his abduction were sketchy, as are the details surrounding most abductions and kidnappings in Tijuana. News reports described Escobosa variously as an "entrepreneur," an "owner of money-exchange houses," a "housing developer." Escobosa's own mother called in to Tijuana radio stations to say that her son owned gas stations and was never involved in crime.

I also know that in early June, Tijuana police arrested a man, José Gustavo Contreras López, as he left his home in an armored Mercury Grand Marquis. The police claimed that Contreras operated a cell for the Arellano Felix drug cartel that had been involved in ten abductions, including that of Ivan Escobosa. I also know that Zeta, Tijuana's 25-year-old muckraking weekly, later reported that while Contreras did work for the Arellano Felix drug cartel, Contreras wasn't in charge of a cell.

Desafortunadamente is Spanish for "unfortunately," and its eight syllables are a mouthful even for native Spanish speakers. Adela Navarro, Zeta's 37-year-old editor, enunciates desafortunadamente with impressive speed. Zeta's investigative reporting has closely tracked the drug Mafia's penetration of Tijuana society. Two of Zeta's journalists have been murdered: Hector Felix Miranda in April 1988 and Francisco Ortiz Franco, in May 2004. (Zeta's publisher, Jesús Blancornelas, has for the past 17 years contended that Jorge Hank Rhon, Tijuana's current mayor, was the "intellectual author" of Miranda's murder.)

On the hot, dry afternoon I visited Zeta's offices to speak with Navarro, three laborers who'd been reinforcing the wall around Zeta's entrance were taking their siesta on a pile of damp sand. A burly fellow holding an M-16 stood guard at the front door. Inside the offices, Navarro, a delicate young woman with large, dark eyes and shoulder-length brown hair, invited me to take a seat on a broad leather couch.

"Desafortunadamente," Navarro said, "the reaction of journalists to what happened at Club Campestre, the reaction of many San Diegans to what happened at Club Campestre, was probably greater than that of a lot of people in Tijuana.

"When an attorney is assassinated, all the law students and the law professors in Tijuana come out and make a big protest. When an accountant is assassinated, all the accounting students and accounting professors come out and make a big protest. After Ivan Escobosa was abducted from Club Campestre and murdered, you heard criticism around town. You heard people complain. But here were people who had the money, influence, and social position to really complain. They're the sort of people who can get on the phone and tell politicians, 'Solve this problem!' Jorge Hank Rhon, the mayor, is a member of Club Campestre. Jorge Hank Rhon is good friends with Dr. Gallardo, Club Campestre's current president. Jorge Hank Rhon's wife was even 'Queen of the Debutantes' at Club Campestre. But as far as I know, to this date, the members of Club Campestre have never made any kind of formal protest about what happened at the entrance to their club.

  • Story alerts
  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

More from SDReader

More from the web

Comments

Sign in to comment

Join our
newsletter list

Enter to win $25 at Broken Yolk Cafe

Each newsletter subscription
means another chance to win!

Close