PULLMAN, Wash. — A bronze memorial will remind anyone who enters Washington State University’s Holland Library on the Pullman campus that the man many consider the grandfather of Chicano poetry was once a professor at the 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. A bronze memorial by late artist Rafael Mendoza, a WSU graduate, will be dedicated to Sanchez at 3 p.m. Friday (March 5) in the Holland Library atrium.
“The library and particularly the atrium of the New Holland Library represent infinite wisdom and scholastic literature and perfectly embodies what I believe Ricardo strived to uphold — the truth,” said Christiaan Brown, a 1998 honors graduate of WSU and president of La Alianza, the university’s Latina/o Alumni Alliance. “The special lighting found within the library atrium provides a window into the heavens and provides a light and warmth that reminds us of Ricardo,” Brown said.
SÃ¡nchez was an unlikely hero because, for him, the road to poetry and academe included violence, gangs and prison. “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.
“The memorial will serve as a daily reminder that in spite of life’s hardships, the human spirit of one individual can inspire others to attempt and achieve many great things,” said RamÃ³n Herrera, WSU graduate and coordinator of the university’s McNair Achievement Program.
“The satisfaction of knowing that Ricardo’s memory will not only last in the minds of those who knew him, but that his legacy will serve as inspiration for future students is incredible,” Brown said. “Since his passing, our community had discussed numerous means for making his presence in Pullman a permanent part of our history. This week, we make that dream real and his memory a lasting part of WSU.”
Many in the Chicana/o community find it particularly poignant that the memorial to Sanchez was created by Chicano artist Rafael “Filo” Mendoza who died just months after completing the bronze memorial. Mendoza earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree, both in fine arts, from WSU in 2000 and 2002, respectively.
“Rafael was quite inspired to create the memorial plaque of Ricardo Sanchez,” said Michele McChesney, Mendoza’s fiancÃ© and mother of his daughter. “He felt it was an important contribution to the students and to the university. This memorial plaque and dedication will bring another opportunity for us to remember Rafael and Ricardo, to celebrate who they were and to remember what was important to each; A reminder of what continues to be important in our lives.”
“Rafael and Ricardo will be forever linked in the history of Chicanas/os at WSU, and I’m sure both are very happy about this,” Herrera said.
“The desire to establish a permanent memorial for Dr. Ricardo Sanchez never waned since the great poet crossed over in September 1995,” said Phil Duran, former dean of science, Northwest Indian College, and former faculty peer of Sanchez’s at WSU. “Now the poet and the artist, Rafael Mendoza, who have set aside the pen, the voice and the brush, will forever speak in memory and spirit to the community for whom they struggled and to a world still in search of unifying principles,” Duran said.