Gente de NAHJ: Julio Cortez chases down his World Cup dream

Associated Press photographer Julio Cortez during the NAHJ Miami 2023 International Conference and Expo in Miami, Fla., on Friday, July 14, 2023. XIOMARA VILLARREAL-GERARDO/LATINO REPORTER

Tears streamed down Julio Cortez’s face as the Mexican national anthem blared through Lusail Stadium in Qatar. His dream to photograph Mexico’s national team at the 2022 FIFA World Cup had come true.

The moment marked the culmination of a yearslong journey to photograph his home country’s team.

The Tepexpan, Mexico native tried for almost a decade to get the assignment. In 2014, he photographed the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team at the World Cup in Brazil. In 2018, he stayed home to celebrate the birth of his child.

“For 2018, I didn’t even bother asking,” Cortez said. “My son was born a month before the World Cup. It was really special to be home, hold my baby, and watch soccer. I thought, ‘It’s okay; I am missing the World Cup because my world is right now, my baby is here.'”

Cortez knew he wanted to make 2022 work. All of his photographs and difficulties had led to that moment.

At 12, Cortez found his passion for journalism. His work was first published in his middle school newspaper.

His work has since appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Houston Chronicle and the Associated Press. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 2021 for his work covering the George Floyd protests.

Cortez came to the U.S. by crossing the San Ysidro border through a gap in a fence at age 10.

The award-winning photojournalist has now fulfilled his dream working for the biggest news agency in the world.

Xiomara Villarreal-Gerardo is a recent honors graduate from San Diego State University. She works as an editorial intern at a Spanish-language automotive site, Autoproyecto, covering motorsports such as Formula 1 and Indycar. Reach her at xiomara17vg [at] gmail [dot] com or on Twitter at @xio_vg.

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