Interview with Jaime Sánchez, Artist/Muralist from Watsonville, CA
by Olga Rosales Salinas
First, Jaime, thank you so much for your time and your art. My sisters and I couldn’t be more excited for you to share your story with us.
Jaime Sánchez grew up in Watsonville and like me, was class of 1998, at Aptos High. Featuring his art at The Rosales Sisters’ Scholarship Silent Auction, is both an honor and a privilege. Sánchez is a prominent artist, muralist, and activist who works to better the Watsonville community every day. He recently received a CARES Act grant award from the Community Health Trust of Pajaro Valley to raise awareness about COVID prevention and to empower people to use proactive measures against it. We are very lucky to have him!
Jaime Sánchez was born and raised in Watsonville. His parents, Gomercindo and Esperanza Sánchez are from Manalisco and Mezcala, Jalisco, Mexico. Sánchez served as a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps and received an undergraduate degree in visual and public art from California State University, Monterey Bay. He has been practicing art for 22 years, and his art can be seen in several murals in the Pajaro Valley region and online @jaimesanchezpresents.
Sánchez, with panels from his work titled "Loaves and Fishes" mural.
Interview with Sánchez
On your website, Animo Arte, you describe the creative process as one of an exploration into the ultimate question: process for what? Can you tell us about the deep dive you take into answering that question when you approach a canvas?
I define art as the process of establishing justice. Justice is universally accepted as an idea that is aligned with truth and correctness, and in my opinion, it is the highest ideal. When I paint and draw pictures and produce designs, it is with the belief that somehow, someway, those pictures and designs will become art by helping in the process of establishing justice. In a way, there is a substantial "leap-of-faith" involved, because there's no way to tell if it's truly art unless justice is achieved.
You are very involved in the Watsonville community as a place that you hope to see thrive. What are the biggest changes you have seen in the community, be it positive or negative?
For the most part, the majority of the people here are ultra-compliant with the status quo. But there is a lot of potential for a growing population of independent thinkers to develop due to the courage, introspection, and leadership of the young population.
Sánchez, with his father Gomercindo.
Can you tell us about the large- scale mural works you’ve done in Watsonville? How has that work specifically shaped other aspects of your creative process?
My largest mural is the PV High Mural. Painting it was quite the experience. Early on, while painting the first panel, a student yelled from a distance, "Finally, something I can be proud of!" Weeks later, while working on another panel, a soda machine was blocking part of the wall, and the football players practicing nearby came over to move the machine out of the way. Months into the process, I was fatigued, and a teacher said, "When is it going to be done? I want to see it done. Perhaps you bit off more than you could chew." Although he was hating, I made him eat his own words by completing the mural. Months later I visited and saw that the mural had been tagged (graffitied) with the phrase "420 lifestyle." The way that they did it- starting off big and leveled, with the tag gradually getting smaller and tilting lower as to avoid the highly detailed area of the mural. The graffiti artist made a conscious effort to avoid the complex area of the mural, making the repair to it easy to do. All this is to say that I learn more from the mural work than anything else. I learn something new from the way people interact with the art. I'm sure I'll never stop learning.
Between now and April 22nd an original art work by Sánchez will be available via silent auction. More details on that soon! The piece titled 210307, is acrylic on canvas, 48in x 38in, and is currently valued at $1,000. All proceeds from this original work will be going directly to the winners of The Rosales Sisters' Scholarship.
In 2018, you worked at Aptos High, in the credit recovery program. Can you describe that experience? Have you been back since then?
Each summer, students who failed classes in the spring have a chance to make up those credits in the credit recovery program (CRP). Each year, one high school campus hosts this program for all of the students grades 9-12 from all of the high schools in the district. I taught two courses and it was a good experience for me. I had a lot of empathy for those students: when I was in high school, I experienced similar hardships that some of these students might have been experiencing. The majority of the students in the program were of Mexican -American (concept) descent. Who were the angels who helped you get to CSU Monterey Bay from Aptos High School? What were some of the hurdles you faced in getting to college?
After high school, I served in the Marine Corps for four years. I then tried to get a BA in Chicano Studies at SDSU, but I was making too much art and taking too many art classes, so I relocated to the Pajaro Valley and transferred to Cal State Monterey Bay, where I achieved my undergraduate degree in Visual and Public Art with an emphasis in mural and large- scale painting. I don't know for certain, but most likely my parents’ prayers most contributed to getting me through. I realized later in life, even though it was in plain view, that my parents always pray for me.
*Sánchez, with his mother Esperanza.
I remember quite a few of us joining the walk-out on campus in 1995 to protest Pete Wilson’s Proposition 187. Essentially prop 187 would have cut basic public services-- like public education --to undocumented individuals and families. Did that experience have an impact on you, personally? Do you feel that it impacted your remaining time at Aptos?
Without a doubt. We, the Mexican-American (concept) people were being singled out and targeted by the state. I remember the faces of the white students, teachers, and staff as I walked out in the demonstration; it was a look of amusement, disapproval and contempt all wrapped up into brazen smirks. The main thing I learned was that I was not one of them (white people)—that's what that experience enforced. It was an empowering experience, that's for sure. I'm not confused about racism.
If you were to address the first-generation or immigrant students at Aptos High here, what would you say? Read The United Independent Compensatory Concept by Mr. Neely Fuller Jr. Buy the book directly from the author at producejustice.com. You can also find the book on Amazon. Never stop learning.
Between now and April 22nd this original art work by Sánchez will be available via silent auction. More details on that soon! The piece is titled 210307. It is acrylic on canvas, 48in x 38in, and is currently valued at $1,000. All proceeds from this original work will be going directly to the winners of The Rosales Sisters' Scholarship. Please stay tuned for more details about the event and about other auction items.
If you would to bid on this work today, please email me directly at email@example.com. If you would like to join us in donating to the Rosales Sisters' Scholarship in general, please donate to our fund here. You will receive a receipt for tax exemption from the Pajaro Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) at the end of May 2021. Thank you so much for helping us positively impact the lives of first-generation or immigrant students from Aptos High School, where we each attended.