Julián Araujo, from defending farmworkers in the US to the Barcelona backline

The player, born in California, was raised among thousands of migrants in the United States, but decided to play for the Mexican national team. He will now be part of the Catalan youth team

Mexican soccer player Julián Araujo during his presentation for FC Barcelona this Friday.
Mexican soccer player Julián Araujo during his presentation for FC Barcelona this Friday.SARA GORDON (FC BARCELONA)

When Julián Araujo returned home from training, his father was exhausted. Jorge Araujo spent nearly endless days working in the fields of Lompoc, California. There was practically no contact between father and son due to their routine. Jorge left Guanajuato at the age of 15 to cross the border and settle in the US with minimal working conditions and no papers. Together with Guadalupe, his wife, they stoically raised a family with three children. Little Julian decided to play soccer, the king of all sports in Mexico. He started in children’s leagues until he broke into a FC Barcelona academy.

The Catalan club, based in Spain’s northeastern Catalonia region, had a small academy in Arizona. The scouts attracted Araujo and even offered him to travel to Barcelona to join the historic soccer player factory. The fullback, however, continued his development in the US until 2018 when MLS side Galaxy signed him. With that move, the doors opened for him in the US national youth teams. The memory of Mexico was at home with his parents, who had made working in the strawberry fields their platform for progressing in life, which also became a banner for Julian Araujo. “It was working all day bent over,” Jorge Araujo told Telemundo. Araujo supported the community of laborers in Lompoc during the hardest months of the pandemic and raised his voice to demand greater labor rights. “He says that when he has a chance, he would like to establish a committee, so that the Mexican farmworkers or other nationalities are paid honestly,” his mother, Guadalupe, told ESPN.

Araujo, now 21, debuted in the First Division in the United States in 2019. There, he coincided with other Mexicans such as Jonathan Dos Santos and Javier Chicharito Hernández. At the same time, he continued rising through the ranks in the US national teams and even played in the qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympics. In 2021, the Mexican Federation began to work to attract Araujo. First, though, Tata Martino had to be convinced to give him a chance and, in a friendly against Chile in Texas, he played all 90 minutes. He would play another full game in the Nations League and his first official game came against Panama in the qualifiers. For the World Cup in Qatar, Martino dispensed with him along with other promising young Mexican players such as Santiago Giménez (Feyenoord) and Diego Lainez (Tigres).

In this winter’s transfer market, FC Barcelona tried to sign the Mexican, but did so at the last minute. So much so that the player’s transfer papers arrived late, just 18 seconds past the deadline. Barça said it was a computer error and appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. This Friday, Barcelona made his arrival official for the next three and a half seasons, that is, until June 2026, the year in which the World Cup will be played in the USA, Mexico and Canada. Araujo will first join Barcelona’s reserve team, Barça Atlètic, coached by his fellow Mexican Rafa Márquez.

“It’s a dream come true, I’d like to be an example for future generations. These weeks were long, but I’m already here, in the best team in the world,” said Araujo on Friday. The Mexican, with pink dyed hair, joins a small group of Mexicans who have joined Barcelona over the years, such as the Dos Santos brothers and Marquez. The signing of Julian Araujo is so far a triumph for the Mexican-American community in world soccer.

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