Oct 1, 1970 - Dec 11, 2020
San Francisco ethnographer Jorge Sánchez devoted his career to the gay and transgender Spanish-speaking community, creating awareness about self-care amid the HIV crisis, collecting stories, and helping foster acceptance among immigrant families for their queer children.
Sánchez had a hand in countless organizations supporting LGBTQ youth and promoting family unity. He investigated LGBTQ wellbeing with the Cesar Chavez Institute and the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality at San Francisco State University, and created an HIV prevention organization in Cartagena, Colombia, later adopted by the local health department. As part of his lead role in the Family Acceptance Project, he worked with ethnically, racially and religiously diverse families to help them learn to support their LGBTQ children.
Sánchez' incomparable interviewing skills were a key link between academic endeavors and community-based organizations, as he was uniquely able to recruit difficult-to-reach participants for many studies and projects.
Sánchez was co-founder of the public art group Cause Collective and helped create the Truth Booth, a giant traveling inflatable video recording booth asking people in cities across the world to finish the sentence, "The truth is…"
Jorge met his beloved Miguel in 2006 in San Francisco, while running a support group for gay/bisexual Latinos with AGUILAS. It would be a lasting love.
Sánchez was born in Bogotá, Colombia, and grew up surrounded by books, culture, and his four older siblings. Sánchez attended the American School in London and graduated high school in Los Angeles. He spent months in Amsterdam and Africa visiting his father's diplomatic posts.
Sánchez studied anthropology at Hunter College in New York City and finished his degree at UC Berkeley in the mid 1990s, where he found his community among SAICA (Students Against Intervention in Central America) members, and people volunteering to support the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, México. He was a regular at Oakland's Forest House, a home bustling with young leftists and open mics.
No one savored life's pleasures like Sánchez, who smiled ear-to-ear swimming alongside canoeing friends in the Russian River and laughed gleefully with siblings when they ended up knee-deep in the mud on a remote tarmac in the Colombian jungle.
Sánchez connected with people of all kinds, liberating us from our inhibitions, accepting our flaws, and treasuring young and old. He lived with irresistible joie de vivre and took many of us on his intellectual and world journeys. "Jorge me llevó a lugares que no hubiese conocido de otra manera," said Sánchez' nephew: Jorge took me to places that I would not have otherwise known.
He gave all who met him the indelible experience of being heard and loved. Sánchez is survived by his partner José "Miguel" Vázquez; his mother Inez Restrepo of Medellín, Colombia; and his siblings Enrique García-Reyes Restrepo of El Choco, Colombia; María Pilar García-Reyes Restrepo of Miami/Barcelona; Roberto García-Reyes Restrepo and Inez García-Reyes Restrepo, both of Bogotá; and Carmen María Sánchez of New York City. He is preceded in death by his father Jorge Fernando Sánchez Mallarino.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Dec. 19 to Dec. 27, 2020.