“All you need is a little courage,” World War II veteran and civil rights leader Bob Sánchez expressed to a room filled with students and community members at the South Texas College Pecan Campus Library Rainbow Room in McAllen last on Nov. 7, 2012 as part of the José de la Luz Sáenz Veterans Lecture Series.
Sánchez was honored with the fifth annual Premio Sol de Aztlán, an award which recognizes scholars, organizations, and authors who have made significant contributions to the Rio Grande Valley community.
“The event was powerful,” said STC Center for Mexican American Studies Coordinator Victor Gómez. “The inspiring message delivered will be felt for a long time. Students and community members got to meet an extraordinary person and local hero in Mr. Sánchez.”
“Become trail blazers,” said Sánchez. “Once you blaze a trail, you open doors to change.”
This change was exemplified through Sánchez’s recounting of the 1968 Edcouch-Elsa walkouts. Sánchez served as legal representation to about 150 students that were expelled for protesting unfair treatment of Mexican-Americans. The case garnered national media attention and the school board’s actions were ruled unconstitutional.
Sánchez, a Laredo native, enlisted in the U.S. Navy at age 17 and served as a naval intelligence officer in Washington, D.C. Using the G.I. Bill, Sánchez went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas-Austin in 1950 and a doctorate from South Texas College of Law in Houston in 1953.
During his lifetime, Sánchez served on numerous political and labor committees including the Texas AFL-CIO, Hispanic War Veterans of America, and the War on Poverty Program in South Texas, among others.
Sánchez was also a founding member of the congressionally chartered American G.I. Forum along with renowned civil rights pioneer Hector P. García, whom he described as a “ball of fire” and “brilliant.”
During the lecture and award presentation, Sánchez described the formation of the American GI Forum and recognized several prominent civil rights leaders in attendance. Students raised questions which drew discussions on education as well as social and political activism.
“The event was very insightful,” said STC student Mario Jaramillo. “There was a lot of feedback as far as what we can do to help our community. Our voice deserves to be heard and Mr. Sánchez gave good advice on how to do that.”
The José de la Luz Sáenz Veterans Lecture Series is hosted by the STC Center for Mexican American Studies and Library Services.
For more information, contact STC’s Center for Mexican American Studies at 956-872-2070 or visit http://offtheshelf.southtexascollege.edu/.