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 was class of 1998 at Aptos High like me. Featuring his art at The Rosales Sisters' Scholarship Annual Online 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 empower people to use proactive measures against it. We are fortunate 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; it is featured in and around several murals in the Pajaro Valley region and online at @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 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 aligned with truth and correctness, and in my opinion, it is the highest ideal. When I paint and draw pictures and product designs, it is with the belief that somehow, those pictures and strategies will become art by helping establish justice. In a way, there is a substantial "leap-of-faith" involved because there's no way to tell if it's genuine art unless justice is achieved.
You are very involved in the Watsonville community as a place that you hope will thrive. What are the most significant 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 young population's courage, introspection, and leadership.
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 Pajaro Valley 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." They did it- starting big and leveled, with the tag gradually getting smaller and tilting lower to avoid the highly detailed area of the mural. The graffiti artist made a conscious effort to avoid the complex area of the mural, helping make repairs easy to do.
All this is to say that I learn more from the mural work than anything else. I know something new from the way people interact with the art. I'm sure I'll never stop learning.
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 fail 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 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. While there, I realized that I was taking too many art classes and that art was what I wanted to do. I relocated to the Pajaro Valley and transferred to Cal State Monterey Bay, where I achieved my undergraduate degree in Visual and Public Art, emphasizing the mural and large-scale painting program. I don't know for sure, but my parents' prayers most likely 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 essential 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?
That experience was substantial, 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 cocky 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.
This painting titled "210307" was auctioned for the inaugural Rosales Sisters' Scholarship in April of 2021. This original canvas sold for $1,100! All proceeds benefit first-generation or immigrant students in the central coast of California. Please join us this year and help us reach our fundraising goal of $32,000! Our Annual Online Auction will begin on 3/1/22 and will feature an original canvas by Jaime Sánchez. You can donate to the fund directly here. We are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization; tax ID#87-1608363.