Cesar is my brother, my friend, my confidant, my son. I will never stop looking for him.
- Mario César González Contreras
Active and restless by nature, César Manuel likes to ride bulls at the rodeo, kickbox, run motorcycles, and car races. At home in Huamantla, Tlaxcala, his parents disapproved of some of his pastimes, so he would often sneak out of his room through the window at night to ride bulls at local rodeos, returning home covered in dust and the occasional bruise.
He is a friend and protector of the weakest, and often returned home without his jacket because he gave it to someone who did not have one. He is fond of animals, knows how to tame horses, and has two pets: a cat, Tambor, and a dog, Lulu. His mother says there was never a month when he did not bring home a stray dog, rabbit, or other animal, to foster until he could convince one of his friends to adopt it.
Two years before entering Ayotzinapa César Manuel served as a volunteer preschool tutor through the National Council for Educational Promotion (Conafe), a federal program that recruits teenagers to educate youth in remote and underserved communities. He worked in the small community of José María Morelos, in Cuapiaxtla, Tlaxcala. He slept on a rusty cot in one of the two cold classrooms, and the students’ parents took turns providing food and lodging. By the end of the first year, his preschool students were able to recognize letters and could write their names in block letters. Never before was César Manuel more certain that he wanted to be a teacher. His parents visited him in José María Morelos and, unknown to César Manuel, watched him teach at the school. “I will never forget one of the days we went to visit him, his mother and I. Cesar was dividing the notebooks of the children that had them, so that those who did not have them could also achieve. Cesar had something special and I understood it there.”
César Manuel’s mother, Hilda Hernández, is a housewife and a department store employee. His father, Mario González, is a welder. Concerned that César Manuel’s did not earn any wages as tutor, Mario encouraged him to enroll in law school, with funds he and Hilda worked tirelessly to save. César Manuel studied two semesters of law at the Autonomous University of Puebla but abandoned it because it was not his vocation.
César Manuel had no difficulty passing the entrance exams for the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers College. While at school, he and his father spoke by phone every three days, without fail. César Manuel joined the Casa Activista and on September 10, 2014 traveled to the city of Tlaxcala to join a march led by students at the Rural Teachers’ College in Panotla. Mario made the trip to the state capital so that he could spend a few hours with his son, who he had not seen in weeks. Finding César Manuel tired and thin, Mario asked him to return home. César Manuel insisted he’d never been happier: "Dad I have always done what you want, now let me continue my path that I already found.” At the end of the day, as they parted ways, they shared a long embrace as father and son and as the closest of friends.