Ricardo Martinez and Eugenia Santiago were desperate.
At the labor camp for Bioparques de Occidente, they and other farmworkers slept sprawled head to toe on concrete floors. Their rooms crawled with scorpions and bedbugs. Meals were skimpy, hunger a constant. Camp bosses kept people in line with threats and, when that failed, with their fists.
Escape was tempting but risky. The compound was fenced with barbed wire and patrolled by bosses on all-terrain vehicles. If the couple got beyond the gates, local police could arrest them and bring them back. Then they would be stripped of their shoes.
Martinez, 28, and Santiago, 23, decided to chance it. Bioparques was one of Mexico's biggest tomato exporters, a supplier for Wal-Mart and major supermarket chains. But conditions at the company's Bioparques 4 camp had become unbearable.
They left their backpacks behind to avoid suspicion and walked out the main gate. As they approached the highway, a car screeched up. Four camp bosses jumped out. One waved a stick at them.
"You're trying to leave,'' he said, after spotting a change of clothing in a plastic bag Martinez was carrying.
"I'm just going for a walk," Martinez said.
"Get in the car or I'll break you," the boss replied.
The next day, Martinez and Santiago were back at work in the tomato fields.
When the mistreatment of workers at the camp was finally exposed, Mexican authorities made arrests, imposed fines and promised to make an example of the company. A year and a half later, however, the case of Bioparques speaks more to the impunity of Mexican agribusiness than to accountability.