Altar in tribute to the businessman in the restaurant he ran in the Polanco neighborhood.Teresa de Miguel
At 57 years old, Laurent Houdebine is a tall but slightly stooped man: somewhat reminiscent of the trunk of a cedar.
With a kind look, his eyes reflect a certain sadness, the echo of a friend who is no longer there.
Of French origin, Houdebine marched this Monday with several hundred people in Mexico City, a memory of his compatriot Baptiste Lormand, who was murdered over the weekend in the capital.
The two had known each other for about 15 years.
Half jokingly, half seriously, Houdebine, who bends down to speak, said that “Baptiste was one of those people who never speaks ill of anything or anyone.
It was very positive: it did not seem French ”.
Houdebine and Lormand had met on the Mexican Pacific coast.
They worked in hotels on the Jalisco coast.
“He ran a hotel for a while, the Little Unknown Hotel.
Sometimes I would go to see him and we would talk.
I liked to dive, but he wasn't like that.
What he liked was burgundy white wine.
Definitely chardonnay, ”he recalls.
The murder of the Frenchman and his partner, Luis Orozco, has mobilized the restaurant community in the Polanco neighborhood, where the two worked.
During Monday's march, rumors abounded in a low voice.
Who did it?
In the afternoon, the first arrest was confirmed, a man whom the authorities call Angel N. This Tuesday the arrest of three more suspects was reported.
The authorities point to theft as a motive.
Lormand and Orozco sold high-end wines and spirits.
For some of his friends and acquaintances, the scene of the robbery is meaningless.
Although no scenario has it, neither does extortion.
Augusto Martínez, who had known Lormand for more than 20 years, assures that the businessman would never have resisted an attempted robbery.
Baptiste, Martinez says, would have let them rob him without complaint to avoid further consequences and to be able to return home.
“He knew about the risks involved and what it takes for his family.
The loss of a father is terrible ”, sentence.
Other acquaintances or friends remember Lormand as someone "very human", "nice but discreet", "responsible with his two children", "worker".
Xavier, a 50-year-old Frenchman who prefers not to give his last name, says they had dinner together two weeks ago at his home.
You do not remember a specific conversation, a particular topic.
Asked about some detail of that dinner, he replied: “Look, I separated from my wife the same month that he separated from his.
He got along very well with her, but for him it had been a failure, he didn't understand what had happened ”.
Thomas Lamy, a 43-year-old sommelier, recalls that Lormand gave him his first job in Mexico about two decades ago.
At the time, Lamy was a newcomer and Lormand ran a successful French tavern, Le Bouchon.
“I arrived without knowing him at all, by chance.
In the end, the French community in Mexico City is small.
We talked for 10 minutes and he hired me ”, he says.
An old friend of Lormand's, a fellow from the hospitality school in Glion, Switzerland, in the 1990s, says Le Bouchon was "a milestone."
At the time Le Bouchon opened, he says, referring to the year 2000 or so, French restaurants here in Mexico City were expensive.
And this one wasn't and it had this French tavern atmosphere. "
Le Bouchon operated in Polanquito, three streets full of bars and restaurants in the heart of the neighborhood.
Polanquito was the beginning and end of Lormand's professional life in Mexico.
His friend from hospitality school says that the Frenchman arrived in Mexico on September 1, 1997, “The day after Lady Di died!” He exclaims, as if he was still surprised.
The two and other partners opened a restaurant soon after.
Then Lormand opened Le Bouchon.
What happened next is a bit strange.
Le Bouchon was open until about five or six years ago, but Lormand sold his share early and ran off to the Jalisco coast.
This friend from school, who asks that his name not appear, says he had a problem at the tavern.
“He received a call, a kidnapping threat.
He was very scared, he sold his shares in Le Bouchon with the intention of leaving.
But something changed, because in the end he did not leave and this opportunity came out there on the coast ”.
That opportunity was the Little Unknown Hotel.
Lonmard was there for a few years until bad fortune made him change his plans.
He had a motorcycle accident and convalescence took him back to the capital.
Later he opened his last place, Don Batiz, a cantina famous for its pozole, also in Polanquito, right across from where Le Bouchon once opened.
At the door of the canteen was this Monday Emmanuel Salcedo, who has worked there for several years.
Salcedo admired Lormand and considered him an example for his work success and for his affable personality.
"More than a boss or a foreigner, he was a family for us, he always behaved like a friend, a relative," he notes with nostalgia.
Salcedo remembers the day the businessman contacted him to offer him a job.
"He told me that we were going to do great things and that he wanted to be more Mexican than everyone who lives here," he stresses.