This dream was cut short this week, when 16-year-old Alexander Martinez Gomez was shot dead by police in the village of Vicente Camalote. Officers opened fire from a passing patrol car.
The death of the semi-professional footballer of American origin has sparked outrage in Mexico, where such cases are often unknown. The country’s security forces are regularly accused of violence and incompetence – but in a global context of protest, incidents of police brutality are being examined like never before.
Protests are planned for Saturday in Alexander’s hometown of Acatlon de Pérez Figueroa, 350 km southeast of Mexico City, where, in the aftermath of the shooting, residents described endemic police abuse and a climate of fear.
Earlier this month, protests erupted in western Jalisco state after construction worker Giovanni Lopez, 33, died in police custody. The state human rights commission concluded on Thursday that he had been tortured, beaten and then killed in an extrajudicial execution.
Eighty people heading to a demonstration for the murder of Lopez were themselves abducted by plainclothes investigative police officers, beaten, stripped of their money and mobile phones and thrown on the outskirts of the city.
“This kind of thing has always happened here – this police assault on young people, on the locals,” said Monce Gomez, Alexander’s aunt.
“It used to be a quiet place,” she added. “But things have changed in recent years. They kill children, they kill young people. They killed women, killed people by mistake, killed others because they were wrongly blamed.
Exact details of Alexander’s death remain unclear, but family members say he went out with friends Tuesday night to buy soda from a nearby gas station.
Alexander was riding a motorcycle and was struck in the head by a bullet and died at the scene. A 15-year-old friend was also injured in the attack.
The local government called the killing an unfortunate mistake, and an involved police officer was taken into the care of questioning.
Oaxaca State Prosecutor Rubén Vasconcelos said: “A shot was fired directly at nine young people who were riding motorcycles, and since [Alexander] was at the front of the group of people, he died immediately.
According to Virginia Gomez, other local officers hid, but none, she said, had apologized for the “lies” they immediately said.
“They said that my son was carrying a gun, that he shot himself. There are a lot of lies,” she said. “e want the culprits behind bars. I want justice. I want them to pay.
Alexander and his older brother Alexis, 19, were both born in Raleigh, North Carolina, where the family had moved in search of better economic opportunities than the sugar cane fields of northern Oaxaca.
In the United States, the boys’ father, Teodoro Martinez, found work in landscaping, and the family was able to build a small house painted yellow and shaded by trees in Mexico.
But after a few years, the parents separated, and Virginia Gomez and the two boys returned to Mexico in 2008. At the time, he thought that life in rural Mexico would be safer than in the United States- but the security situation quickly began to deteriorate.
Alexis eventually returned to the United States, but Alexander had other plans.
“He wanted to stay in Mexico to follow his dream of being a football player and to play for Mexico,” said his mother. “Everything was fine and his dream was coming true.”
“hander” – as he was known – received a scholarship to go to university in the neighboring state of Veracruz, where he played professionally with a third division club Rayados de Tierra Blanca, a subsidiary of the upper Monterrey team.
On Thursday, he was buried after a funeral in the hamlet of Vicente Camalote on the ground where he had honed his skills.
His teammates honored their friend by allowing him to score one last goal. A teammate passed the ball to Chander’s coffin and deflected into the net.
The team of teenagers then piled on the coffin for a final embrace to the cheers of the crowd. After the applause was dead, they remained there, sobbing.
With the report by José Luis Gonzalez Hernandez in Acatlon de Pérez Figueroa