Pepe visited us two days before (his disappearance,) and that day I gave him a big hug and told him that I loved him: ‘Son, wherever you are, I will always be there for you.’ I don’t know what made me say those words. Now I am beginning to understand.
- Emiliano Navarrete
The first hug Emiliano Navarrete shared with his son José Ángel was when the boy was four years old. Like so many other family members of the missing students, Emiliano emigrated to the United States to provide a better life for his family. The distance that poverty imposed was difficult for the family, and although he was away when his son was born, Emiliano describes it as the best day of his life.
José Ángel Navarrete González was born in Tixtla and grew up with his mother Angélica González, and his siblings Tania and Emilio, his father returning from the United States when he was an adolescent. “Pepe,” as he is called by friends and family, spent every afternoon playing soccer in the streets of Tixtla, inspired by his hero Leonel Messi. Pepe’s father instilled in him that it was also important to study, and he soon developed a clear goal of working with children in marginalized communities. His parents didn’t have money to send him to a private school so Pepe’s only option to continue his studies was to get secure admission to the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College.
In Ayotzinapa, Pepe made friends easily, and talked a lot about his family, and about his desire to help them financially. Of quiet character, reserved with those he does not know, he is a prankster with his friends. A second-year student befriended José Ángel after they bonded over their fathers both being bricklayers. Thin from days of hard discipline and little food during the test week, Sobrino sneaked Pepe into his room and fed him quesadillas and juice.
Emiliano Navarrete has become an indispensable speaker in the manifestations of the parents of the Ayotzinapa 43 wherever they go. He promises again and again that he will not rest until he finds his son and brings him back home, in fulfillment of his promise.