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Graciela Sanchez interviewed by Loretta Ross, February 22-23, 2005

 File — Box: 50
Link to redacted transcript of Graciela Sanchez interview
Link to redacted transcript of Graciela Sanchez interview
Link to video
Link to video

Scope and Contents

In this oral history, Sánchez describes her childhood in a close-knit extended, egalitarian working-class family, noting especially her mother's influence on her core values. She recounts her political development and activity at Yale, the difficulty of her coming out process, and her involvement in Chicano organizing projects and filmmaking. Sánchez details the development of the Esperanza Center, including the political and funding challenges of sustaining a multi-issue organization led by lesbians of color. She offers a vivid account of Esperanza's grassroots "Todos Somos Esperanza" campaign against right-wing attacks, including the Center's successful lawsuit against the city's efforts to defund it in the late 1990s. Her account of the centrality of the arts and community history to Esperanza's goals and organizing strategies is especially strong. (Transcript 106 pp.)

Dates of Materials

  • February 22-23, 2005

Creator

Language of Materials

English

Conditions Governing Access

This interview is open for research use without restriction. Tape 4 (pp. 52-54) of the unedited version of this interview was formerly closed at the direction of the narrator until September 1, 2015.

Conditions Governing Web Access

At the direction of the narrator, the recording of this interview may only be placed on the web if access is restricted to the Smith College community. Please consult with special collections staff at specialcollections@smith.edu to inquire about the existence of or access to digital copies. The interviewer and narrator for this interview have agreed that the transcript may be placed on the web.

Conditions Governing Use

The interviewer and narrator have transferred copyright of this interview to Smith College.

Biographical / Historical

Graciela Sánchez was born April 24, 1960, in San Antonio, Texas, the fifth of six children of Enrique and Isabel Sánchez. She was influenced by her parents' involvement in the Chicano pride movement that began in San Antonio in the late 1960s. After graduating from Yale University in 1982, Sánchez returned to her childhood neighborhood on the near west side of San Antonio, where she remains a dedicated community organizer.

In the 1980s, Sánchez worked with the Southwest Voter Registration Project, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), and Chicana Health Policy Development. She participated in Central American solidarity work and studied filmmaking at the Escuela Internacionale de Cine y Television in Cuba. She has produced several films, including Testimonios de Nicaragua on the Sandinista Revolution and No porque lo dice Fidel Castro on lesbian and gay politics in Cuba. As an organizer in the queer community, she became a founding board member of the San Antonio Lesbian Gay assembly, the San Antonio Lesbian/Gay Media Project, and ELLAS, a state and local Latina lesbian organization.

In 1987 Sánchez joined other women in founding the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, which she still directs. A cultural arts and education center, Esperanza is led by lesbians of color committed to bringing grassroots and internationalist Chicana, gender, and working class perspectives together in social justice activism. The Center nurtures the arts as cultural activism and supports MujerArtes, a clay collective that has reestablished pottery-making among low-income Mexican American women as an expression of culturally-grounded empowerment. Esperanza also integrates the collecting of Chicana history into its popular education programs and serves as a repository of artifacts and resources on Mexican American women's history, including the works of Sandra Cisneros and Gloria Anzaldúa. Esperanza regularly publishes La Voz de Esperanza, which celebrates the achievements of the Chicano community with an emphasis on women. Sánchez received the Stonewall Award in 1992 in national recognition of her work in promoting lesbian rights.