By Kathy Staudt, his colleague and friend
Juan and I have been friends for a LONG time. I love libraries and books; so did Juan. We would visit inside the library or on the sidewalk, a short walk between the UTEP Library and Benedict Hall, the location of my political science office. Sometimes we would just exchange chisme on the sidewalk about the antics, power shifts, and personalities in our university institutional home away from home, a miniature political system.
Juan was the quintessential cosmopolitan intellectual and art collector. The go-to person on Mexico, Chicano/a studies, and the border, he helped me and my students locate things in the library and region. We shared crazy things in common, like finding cool clothes in the ropa por libra places on Santa Fe or Paisano. I still have the high-end (Chicos!) deep-purple shirt he found for me in a barrel for probably ~$1. We loved finding treasures like that, plus we were beating capitalism!
Through his everyday practices, Juan practiced his philosophy of life. As someone who walked everywhere and used public buses, he left a minimal carbon footprint on the earth. He passionately believed in opening opportunities through his teaching as a librarian (yes, librarians teach!). He believed in the interdisciplinary connections of knowledge, including the way art can transform perceptions. Juan was passionate about the borderlands and Mexico and traveled annually to its core of creativity—dare I say: not Mexico City, but Oaxaca.
We shared so much in common, including a redistributive political agenda, perhaps from our working-class backgrounds and boomer year of birth (he was born just 8 months ahead of me). We joked about the foibles of the rich but got a charge out of observing and tasting. Once when he got free tickets for the big-bash alumni feast in the UTEP Library, we stopped at all the fancy food stations and loaded up liquid chocolate in which to dip fruits, sampled lots of cheeses, and sipped wine.
I would also see Juan at El Paso Art Museum receptions where some of his fabulous art collection was on display. Many of us in the community were heartbroken, as was he, when the city museum-art bureaucrats passed on his generous offer to donate that world-class collection. Instead, the Mexic-Arte Museum, thrilled at his offer, made sure to pack everything carefully and ship it to Austin.
Juan was always ready and willing to respond to needs. In the 1990s, some of us organized a memorial at the inside patio of the Geology Building for one of my brilliant students who died too young, too quickly, too soon. I asked Juan to sing at the event. His solo rendering of Ave María, without accompanying instruments, is still in my head. I get chills and choked up just remembering his sincerity and talent then and always.
Juan will live on in spirit connecting all of us with whom he came into contact, reminding us of his love of the borderlands and the ways he walked the everyday walk of respect for people, nature, borderlands territorial space, and multi-faceted knowledge. Long live Juan Sandoval!
Kathy (Kathleen) Staudt, Professor Emerita of Political Science, retired from teaching after 40 years at UTEP where she taught courses on borderlands, democracy, public policy, and women & politics. She has edited and authored twenty books, the latest of which focuses on community organizing in Texas cities: Hope for Justice and Power: Broad-based Community Organizing in the Texas Industrial Areas Foundation (University of North Texas Press, 2020).
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