Between the 27th and 28th of March, 2011, the life of Juan Francisco Sicilia Ortega, known as Juanelo ended. He was the son of the journalist and poet Javier Sicilia, whose words after his son's death inspired a national movement to end the violence in Mexico. Today, one year later, his “second family,” the one he played soccer with, rendered a tender homage to him on the soccer field of the American University of Morelos in Cuernavaca. “Let’s do what he loved the most,” urged Luis Añorve, who was probably one of his best friends. And so the ball rolled with joy.
The American University of Morelos is small, private, intimate and calm. The three meter-high walls that surround it seem to protect the place from reality. This is where Juan Francisco studied Business Administration on a scholarship thanks to soccer. The violence came in an abrupt fashion, without any permission, when the news of a 24- year- old young man, the first student from the University, fell victim to what the Mexican Government calls “the war on drug trafficking.” The discovery of his corpse tore apart life within the soccer team and within the University, but it also precipitated the birth of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, (MPJD) which was inspired and pushed forward by Juenelo’s father.
On this breezy night, the poet has put on the red soccer jersey with the number 18 that his son usually wore while playing with the University team. “He always said when he began to play soccer that all of his problems would disappear,” said Gabriela Avendaño Ortega, 23. She was Juanelo’s girlfriend, who along with Luis Añorve organized this intimate, small, private and calm homage.
Juan Francisco had a few names: Juanelo while he was off the soccer field; Villa while he was on it. “Our team called him that because he really liked Germán Villa [a now-retired Mexican international soccer player] who also happened to play on his favorite team, el América.” Because of this, Luis had designed a jersey with Villa’s name on top of a sun and placed within a circle. “It’s because he was like sunshine for us. When he arrived you could hear him from the parking lot. He always protected us when there were problems on the field… he was the team’s source of happiness.” The jersey displays two phrases, one that reflects on the past: “It was a privilege to play at your side,” and one that keeps Juanelo alive: “Today it is an honor to play for you.” Luis has also painted a giant mural with Juanelo’s face connected to the Yoloxochitl flower, which is the medicinal cure for the heart and which according to legend is in fact a dead daughter that returned to console her father.
Neither Luis nor Javier Sicilia avoided tears today, they sought out a deep hug and encouraged the rest to continue to be active youths in the context of this injustice. The body of Juan Francisco was found alongside six other friends, and there has been no “justice” for any of them. “Justice,” paradoxically was what the University’s Constitutional Law professor was talking about in classroom number 1, the only class full of students at this hour. “We all have to do something to change this. I believe the youth can do a lot,” insists Gabriela. “A lot of students were not concerned with these things [the violence], and now they have changed their ways of life.”
Tomorrow, March 28th, in the city of Cuernavaca there will be a series of actions to commemorate the first year of the MPJD, the movement that Juanelo’s death sparked. The events, entitled “Out of pain, rage, and love”, will “give a face to the victims to show that they are human and shouldn’t be criminalized by the State,” explains Javier Sicilia. Today, the face of only one victim has been remembered by his loved ones: María “Coco” Ortega, his mother; his godfather, Francisco Villavicencio; some close family members and just over twenty of his friends. Coco explains that this was not a typical soccer match: “No referees, no penalties, with children, girls and boys.” Who won? “Ah… I don’t know, this match doesn’t have a winner…Juan won it,” said Ximel, still sweating. They would finish the match when it was time. This evening the moon is waning, and the violence outside of these walls seems impossible. The players go out into reality. The silence returns tonight after Juanelo returned to the field.