The family of a 22-year-old aspiring journalist from Colorado Springs was in Mexico City on Monday, seeking answers about his death.
Armando Montano was found dead early Saturday in a Mexico City elevator shaft.
Mexican authorities are investigating how Montano's life ended in an apartment building near where he was living in the Condesa neighborhood.
He was there working as a summer news intern with The Associated Press, but Montano was not on assignment at the time of his death, AP executive editor Kathleen Carroll said.
"The AP has been spectacular in helping us negotiate the Mexican bureaucracy. They are really helping us," Montano's mother, Diane Alters, told The Denver Post. "They all loved him too."
Montano came to Mexico in early June after graduating with a bachelor's degree in Spanish from Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, where he also worked as a writer and editor for the school's student newspaper, the Scarlet & Black. Montano was planning to begin a master's degree program in journalism at the University of Barcelona this fall.
"The loss of Armando is a terrible shock to the AP staff members who were fortunate enough to call him a colleague," Carroll said. "He gathered many friends to himself in the short time he was there. Our focus now is to help the family all we can."
Montano was born in Massachusetts but grew up Colorado, graduating from Palmer High School. He also lived for two years of his childhood in Costa Rica and spent time in Argentina and on the U.S.-Mexico border with his family.
His parents, Alters and Mario Montano, teach at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. Armando Montano was their only child.
"Mando has friends all over the world," said David Hendrickson, a family friend and political- science professor at Colorado College. "We've known him since he was little, and he was just a wonderful young man. Everybody loved him.
"He had this personality that was so effervescent and life-affirming. He was funny. Everything about him was exceptional."
Montano wrote in a short piece in March on Salon.com about how cooking with his immigrant father helped him make sense of — and find peace with — his biracial existence.
"For as long as I can remember," he wrote, "I've felt the push and pull of growing up biracial in America. In the Mexican side of my family I was known as the white one. Even though I spoke Spanish, it was the formal kind learned from classrooms and reading, rather than the one you pick up by bartering with local shop owners over the price of firm avocados, or arguing with parents over a ridiculous curfew. On the other side, my cousins called me a 'Wexican,' a white Mexican, despite my similarly toned skin."
Montano's internship in Mexico was a dream job for him, his mother said.
Montano also worked as a multimedia and reporting intern at The Colorado Independent, an online news service, and as an investigative intern at The Seattle Times.
In 2007, Montano was one of 16 writers chosen from among 600 who entered a Denver Post writing competition called Colorado Voices.
He also received many journalism honors.
"His editors here were certain he would go far in the field he loved," Post spokeswoman Barb Ellis said. "Journalism has lost a rising star."