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A tough time for Española

Glen Rosales

Thomas Paine famously wrote “These are the times that try men’s souls” in his 1776 pamphlet, “The American Crisis.”

It is equally apropos today as the country and state bend under numerous pressures in virtually every realm thinkable.

But what of not-quite men, mere teenagers? Kids really, still struggling to figure out what life is all about, let alone the finality of death.

It is a cruel smack in the face when confronted with this harsh reality.

The community of Española is dealing with and reeling from just that. Again.

One of its bright, young lights was extinguished a week ago. By all accounts, 2018 Española Valley High School graduate Cameron Martinez was going places. An outgoing soul with a ready smile and a heady future, Martinez was a Sundevils basketball player who contributed to a team that reached the state tournament finals.

He wasn’t a star, not even a starter, but he was ready to help out in any position his team needed him to play.

Martinez was senselessly gunned down in a case of mistaken identity, and three friends also were injured in the shooting. Numerous arrests have already been made in the case and no doubt some will pay for this crime. But what does that matter? What solace does that bring for family and friends who lose a loved one and even the community that loses out on what Martinez could have brought to Española?

Not even 24 hours later, the Sundevils football team was asked to take the field against Bernalillo. High school athletics is generally a pretty small, tight-knit group, so no doubt many Española players knew Martinez and maybe even were friends. It was the school’s homecoming and a moment of silence was planned for Martinez, whose recent killing had to be at the forefront of many of the players’ minds.

Perhaps, however, this was too much to ask of these players. These youngsters who were forced to face the specter of the grimmest of possibilities in a far too personal manner were likely just not yet ready to turn their attention to something as inconsequential as a high school football game.

And, perhaps fairly predictably, the football game turned sideways pretty quickly. The football field, even at the high school level, can be a mean, cruel place. It really is no place for a bunch of wounded, hurting youngsters to be after such a traumatic event.

Early in the game, some words were spoken. Words turned to shoves and shoves to fists, and pretty soon the football game was done. Sundevils coach Miguel Medina – himself a bastion of class – pulled his squad from the field and forfeited the game to the Spartans.

The New Mexico Activities Association, following an investigation into Friday’s game, has upheld the forfeit, giving Bernalillo a 2-0 win in the game, said NMAA associate director Dusty Young.

Additionally, since members of both teams were involved in the fight and were ejected from the game, they have been levied one-game suspensions, although Española superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez earlier said eight Sundevils would be suspended for two games. Young would not say how many total players were suspended.

As part of the sanctions against Española and in conjunction with the district’s administration, the school’s final home game Oct. 26 against St. Pius will played without spectators, although it will be available via streaming services, he said.

And finally, under the NMAA’s new crowd control measures enacted before the season, Española has been put on notice that any further unsportsmanlike behavior by its fans will result in more stringent ramifications, Young said.

That this all involves Española is one of those cruel circumstances. More than any other town in New Mexico, Española is much maligned for any number of real or perceived ills. It is the butt of far too many jokes. Wedged between the state’s sparkling stars of Santa Fe and Taos, Española is the misbegotten middle child.

I’ve had the chance to meet and interview and interact with many folks from Española over the years. It’s pretty difficult to recall any encounters that I could consider truly unpleasant. Most of the people were like Martinez: friendly, outgoing, pleasant folks.

And yet here, again, Española is taking it on the chin. It deserves better.