New Mexico Scholar George I. Sanchez Finally Gets Hometown Fame

Noted scholar and Latino civil rights icon George I. Sanchez.
Noted scholar and Latino civil rights icon George I. Sanchez.

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A noted Mexican-American scholar and civil rights advocate who had left New Mexico after a political fight will finally be recognized in his birth city.

The Albuquerque School Board voted unanimously Wednesday to name a new school in honor of George I. Sanchez, a note author, scholar and activist who played a key role in some of the nation's most important school desegregation cases.

The George I. Sanchez Collaborative Community School, a kindergarten to 8th grade school, will be located in the largely immigrant and Mexican-American southwest side of the city.

"He's big hero that we almost forgot to honor," said retired educator Luisa Duran, 73, to board members. "You'll probably want to name a couple of more schools after him when you learn more about his work."

Though a dozen or so schools in California and Texas are named after him, the noted scholar and author was virtually unknown in Albuquerque until recently. A 2012 AP story on Sanchez and his absence as a known figure in his own state led to a push for recognition among New Mexico educators.

Sanchez worked as a rural teacher and administrator, and later wrote the seminal 1940 book "Forgotten People." It was one of the first studies to document how Hispanics around Taos, New Mexico, were losing land and influence to poverty.

After a political fight, Sanchez left to Venezuela, then was hired at the University of Texas-Austin where he wrote other books, became national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and corresponded with NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall on desegregation strategy.

In 1960, Sanchez played in key role in forming Viva Kennedy! clubs across the Southwest to help John F. Kennedy win a close presidential election by garnering 90 percent of the Latino vote. He died in 1972.

The late noted scholar and civil rights advocate George P. SanchezCourtesy: Associated Press

-Russell Contreras, The Associated Press