Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, April 13, 1960
In a photo taken by guest Bob Profeta during a party at their Hollywood apartment, Florence Aadland, left, scuffles with her 17-year-old daughter, Beverly, during an argument over whether the television was too loud. You may recall that Beverly Aadland was in the news in 1959 as Errol Flynn’s “protege.” She was being held on charges of prostitution and lack of parental supervision after William Stanciu was shot to death while struggling with her over a gun.
Tijuana's Vigilantes Swing Into Action
In Tijuana, the vigilantes have formed.
They were no broad sombreros, no special uniforms, no shiny badges. They pack no pistols.
They are quiet, unobtrusive vigilantes. And they're careful.
When they step on the toes of the moneyed dealers in sin, they say "Excuse me."
But they say it firmly, so as not to be misunderstood.
They have no official commission, no legal authority. But so far, they've been getting their own way.
Why they have, they're not exactly sure themselves.
Except for the fact that they've got right on their side. And what they're doing could save the bawdy border city from self-destruction.
| Today, I met with the leader of this strange 100-man band of self-appointed guardians of border town morals. His name: Alfredo Escobedo. By occupation, he's an accountant, with offices in downtown Tijuana. He also has four children, whom he intends to raise in the border city.|
"They are the main reasons I'm a member of the comite," he told me. "Someday, Tijuana is going to be theirs. I want them to accept it without shame."
The comite -- committee -- which Escobedo helped form is made up of Tijuana businessmen and merchants whose reasons for banding together weren't, by their own admission, entirely unselfish.
"For more than a year, our city has been suffering," Escabedo explained. "Last year alone, our bad reputation caused us millions of dollars. We had to do something. With us, tourism is an $80 million a year industry."
Ninety percent of Tijuana's 185,000 citizens are dependent, either directly or indirectly, on the U.S. tourist dollar.
And the tourists have been scared away, not by the thousand, but millions, because of daily reports of corruption, vicious police treatment, indifference to human life and wholesale daylight vice which have filtered across the border into the U.S. press.
The capper came in January of '59 when more than 40 Americans were given a taste of Baja California's Dark Age justice following a gambling raid in the Rosarito Beach Hotel. The raid was conducted by Mexican federal agents after state officials had done their best to lull tourists into believing that the gambling club operation was legal.
Escobedo showed me the statistics which led up the organizing of his vigilantes:
NUMBER OF TOURISTS VISITING TIJUANA
1956 .................... 7.5 million
1957 .................... 8.7 million
1958 .................... 11.2 million
1959 .................... 7.8 million
From 1958 to 1959, the drop in tourist traffic was 3.4 million.
Taking into consideration the upswing before '59, Escobedo estimated that Tijuana's sins and the resultant publicity cost his town 5 million visitors last year.
"It was last July," he said, "that we began to organize our comite." Its primary purpose was to see that the tourist got a fair break -- but since its inception, it has gone way beyond that.
Tourists in Trouble
At all hours of day and night, members of the committee have come to the aid of tourists in trouble. They have talked Tijuana's policemen out of dozens of arrests. They have recovered money and possessions stolen from American visitors, whether they lost them in a house of prostitution or in a respectable bar.
With their quiet persuasion-by-statistics, they have been instrumental in closing down clip joints run by big-time Baja California politicians. They even forced a cousin of former Baja California Gov. Braulio Maldonado to pay off an American for an auto accident in which he was involved.
"A year ago," Escobedo told me, "this would have been impossible. But now we can do it. We have the people, the Tijuana press, behind us."
Maldonado's term in office expired last Nov. 1.
"Since then," said Escobedo, "we have been getting wonderful support from the state. Everybody in Baja California is alarmed at what happened."
Tomorrow, I'll continue this report with case histories of tourists who told their troubles to the vigilantes.