Raimundo Garduño Cruz was an actor, director, producer and baseball fanatic who often bet on matches between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Juan Francisco Gonzalez Aguilar, also known as Paco Mufote, was an actor and musician who carried his guitar everywhere with him and never said a bad word unless it was written.
Both were favorite pillars of Tijuana’s entertainment community, deeply interested in cultivating a passion for the performing arts among the next generation in their native Mexico.
Both died Thursday when a van carrying them and other actors and members of the Netflix Chosen crashed in the Mexican peninsula of Baja California.
According to local media, the vehicle overturned after fleeing a desert road near Mulege, on the shores of the Gulf of California southeast of the Santa Rosalia area, where the creators of the Mexican television series worked. Six other actors and crew members were injured in the crash.
Netflix has not yet released a statement about the tragedy, which sparked talks about the safety and exploitation of movie and TV drivers.
In a statement, the Screen Actors Guild said it had “contacted Netflix and the Mexican Actors Union ANDA about the incident and … is investigating local production.”
Garduño was born in Mexico City, but has worked and helped stage plays in Tijuana for many years, according to Fernando Bonilla, a close friend and actor in Mexico City. The two met in the world of theater.
Garduño has directed plays in which he seeks to make serious themes, such as migration in the United States, accessible to children. He was dedicated to creating platforms for theater outside of Mexico City, where much of the industry is focused.
“Mexico City is a focal point for politics and culture, and with theater you see that in the extreme,” Bonilla said. “Ray was very focused on trying to transform this situation.” Behind his large appearance was a “noble and tender heart,” he added.
In addition to the theater, Garduño loved baseball and shared his passion for food, recommending places for tacos and seafood in Baja California. He leaves two children – Marina at 14 and Daniel at 26.
“For people who knew Ray, the first thing that comes to mind is that he was a family man who loved his children and parents deeply,” Bonilla said. “They were his priority.”
Garduño sold printer paper in Mexico City in the 1990s before moving to Tijuana. Once there, he directed several plays written by Enrique Olmos, a playwright living in the state of Hidalgo. Olmos said Garduño had become “one of the most important directors in the country”.
Olmos said Garduño loved going to bars, nightlife and the Mexican football club Cruz Azul. “No one knew Tijuana like him,” he added. “A good man, a good father, a good friend and always restless. That’s how I remember it. “
In professional circles, Gonzalez was known as Paco Mufote, but independent director Jose Paredes knew him better by another nickname: Pakovic, a merger of Paco and the surname of Argentine Mexican guitarist Alejandro Markovic.
Paredes met Gonzalez when he was 10 and Gonzalez was about 19. Back in the 1990s, Gonzalez would visit Paredes’ family home in Tijuana for jam sessions with his older brothers, who played keyboards and drums.
“My house was then where [the musicians would] everyone meets, “Paredes told The Times. “They were older than me, but Paco was one of the few who actually talked to me when I was a child, and he was very kind.”
Paredes, a rare non-musical member of the family who is more interested in movies, accidentally crosses paths with Gonzalez years later. At the time, Paredes was directing short films and Gonzalez was starting his acting career. Paredes was surprised. He always thought of Gonzalez as a musician. He soon learned that Gonzalez was also a remarkably flexible actor.
“He was like a chameleon,” Paredes said. “He can play any role.”
However, Gonzalez’s love for music has never disappeared.
In Paredes’ 2022 film, Contratiempo, Gonzalez portrays a musician similar to him. While shooting the film in 2020, Paredes said that a song was stuck on the set. Just when he finally stopped thinking about it, Gonzalez started playing his guitar tune, smiling at him.
“Once he smiles, it’s over,” said actor Jose Jenke, who co-starred with Gonzalez in Contratiempo.
“You see the heart right there. … It is a light that passes. ”
At the end of the private screening of “Contratiempo”, Gonzalez with a guitar in his hand – shouted in full force: “Thank you all! It was a great project, but I have to go! ‘ … and it just ran out, ”Paredes recalls.
Gonzalez was constantly on the move, said Paredes, whose last communication with his longtime friend was not a text message but an audio one. Gonzalez usually chooses audio instead of text, “because he was always driving somewhere or walking somewhere.”
“I don’t think anything was a hobby for him,” Paredes said. “It was a way of life. … He was always doing something. He didn’t stop. “
Although he has known him for a much shorter period of time, Jenke immediately recognized Gonzalez as a “rock star” – not because of his guitar skills, but because of his commitment to spreading his love of the arts to young people in Mexico.
After working with him on Contratiempo, Gonzalez planned to teach guitar and acting lessons for the non-profit organization Yenque, Arts for a Better Tomorrow, which has partnered with orphanages in Tijuana to heal through art.
“I never knew Paco’s real name,” Jenke said. “It’s not like he’s been a long, longtime friend … but it just shows you the influence that someone who is good can have – someone who has great intentions, someone who has a good heart. And I don’t meet many of them. “
Gonzalez survived his parents.
“He was an actor with different dimensions,” said Jenke. “He will play a killer … and in a moment he can just turn him around and he can play someone you trust and with whom you would leave your children. … This is a great actor. ”
Miller reported from Mexico City, Carras from Los Angeles.