PULLMAN, Wash. — A bronze memorial will soon be a reminder that the man many consider the grandfather of Chicano poetry was once a professor at Washington State University.
Ricardo SÃ¡nchez, a celebrated poet, was a professor of creative writing and Chicano Studies at WSU from 1991 until his death in 1995 of stomach cancer. In his obituary, the New York Times said, (his) “raging cries for cultural justice gave poetic voice to the Chicano protest movement in the 70s.”
The bronze memorial by artist and WSU graduate Rafael Mendoza will be unveiled at the annual Gabriel Cardenas Banquet at 7 p.m., Saturday, March 8, at the Livestock Pavilion on the WSU campus in Pullman. The bronze piece bears a likeness of SÃ¡nchez and an inscription from the poem “o youth, o life” from his book, “American Journeys: Jornadas Americanas.”
SÃ¡nchez was an unlikely success story. Had he been anyone else, his life might have ended in violence in the barrio of El Paso, Texas, where he grew up, or in prison where he ended up twice on robbery convictions. However, those who knew him said he was cut from different cloth.
“Though SÃ¡nchez later described his actions as stupid, he was never ashamed to admit that he was an ex-convict. In fact, he felt it was his duty to educate youth against the glorification of prison and lifestyles that lead to prison,” reads the biography on SÃ¡nchez’ official Web site ( www.dr-ricardo-sanchez.com/).
Christiaan Brown, a 1998 WSU Honors graduate and president of La Alianza, the WSU Latina/o Alumni Alliance group presenting the memorial to the university, was beginning his second year at WSU when SÃ¡nchez died but Brown, like many, said SÃ¡nchez’ work lives on. “Our goal is to create a lasting memorial to a WSU professor whose words inspired an entire community to question attacks on humanity wherever they should take place — that each life represents a voice awaiting the opportunity to be heard. Ricardo taught us that anything can be accomplished and his life continues to serve as a lasting example for current WSU students and alumni,” he said.
Speaking for La Alianza, Brown said the gift to the students, faculty and staff of WSU is significant because it marks several important firsts. “It marks the first significant commemoration of a Latino academic at this university and finally secures the local recognition that Ricardo deserves,” he said. “This gift also marks the first major gift to the university from Latino alumni – a sign of our continued dedication to the higher education of Latinos throughout the state.”
Norma D. Duran, a WSU graduate and friend of SÃ¡nchez said the new bronze artwork on the campus “will serve to honor Ricardo and his family for all he and his wife contributed to WSU. Chicano/Latino students will be proud to see someone they can identify with be honored in this way.” According to her husband, Phillip H. Duran, “The permanent icon on campus will not only honor the memory of this man, it also represents a greater gift to the students of WSU, to the university and to a society in need of the message of hope.”
La Alianza de WSU: Latina/o Alumni Alliance said it is grateful for the help, support and contributions it received from university offices and organizations that made the memorial possible. They include the President’s Office, Office of Student Affairs, Department of English, Department of Comparative American Cultures, Multicultural Student Services, and the Chicano Latino Student Alliance.