February 25, 2014, “No Spic for President”

Published: February 28th, 2014

Category: Events Archive, Latino History

February 25, 2014, “No Spic for President” Oral History Event
By Latina/o Diaspora in the Americas Project Coordinator Génesis Lara

This event featured UF Alumnus Gil Sanchez interviewed by Dr. Paul Ortiz in front of a gathered audience of students, faculty and staff.

As student leaders, we strive to do the best work possible for the communities that we serve. We understand the issues our communities face, not simply because we have lived through certain issues, but because we choose to be active members of said communities. Our roles as student leaders have been to combat problems of the community through the use of all the resources available to us as University of Florida students. The events we create, the forums we organize, and everything we do is meant to educate and empower the entire University of Florida community, so that we can truly make a difference for the better in this world. We want our students to achieve their dreams not because they had to sacrifice their identities to accomplish them, but rather because they are proud of whom they are. The sleepless nights, the long meetings, and everything in between . . . are all well worth it because we, as a community, believe in each other and we see the difference, even if no one else does.

University of Florida Alumnus Gil Sanchez, who attended UF in late thousands and early 2000s was no different. Mr. Sanchez worked incredibly hard to attend the University of Florida and once here he focused on being a great student. As a student, he was involved in both the UF Hispanic-Latino student community and also a part of UF’s student government. Eventually, Mr. Sanchez graduated from the University of Florida and in the Spring of 2002 he was a student at the Levin College of Law. On February 25, 2014, Mr. Sanchez visited the Institute of Hispanic-Latino cultures to address current UF students, faculty, staff, and community partners about his candidacy for UF Student Government President in 2002.

Gil Sanchez was the first Latino to run for student body president and his journey to reach this decision was a long one. In his senior year as undergraduate, Sanchez stated the SG individuals offered his the position of Student Body Vice-President; Sanchez declined. He said that even then, he felt that he could do something different, something greater. Mr. Sanchez worked hard to make that something different a reality by running for Student Body President. Having worked as a club promoter for over year, Mr. Sanchez was able to recruit enough funds to pay the exorbitant fee that SG officials are required to pay. With support for law students, his fraternity and the student organizations such as the Hispanic Student Association and the Black Student Union, Mr. Sanchez marched forward in his campaign. It seemed that his dream was actually going to become a reality.

However, a few days before the election the words “No Spics for President” were written on the walls of La Casita. Community meetings, a parade and pledge was made were students took a stand against racism. Mr. Sanchez eventually lost the election by less than ten votes. Over ten years later, why is it important for us to listen to Mr. Sanchez’s story?

Gil Sanchez’s story is important because 2002 was not that long ago. His story is important because, as a student community, it is important that we know and understand our history. Furthermore, Gil Sanchez’s story is important because, in over ten years, not much has changed at the University of Florida. My junior year of college, a fraternity decided that blackface was an appropriate Halloween costume. And it was not the first or last incident of blackface that has occurred on this campus. However, we often like to pretend that race issues are not a problem at the University of Florida.

And why should there be race issues? The Gator Nation is a diverse community. Not only does UF have a significant number of Hispanic, Black, and Asian American students, they have student organizations too. The Black Student Union, the Hispanic Student Association, the Asian American Student Union, Pride Student Union to name a few, compose some of the largest organizations on this campus, working yearlong to ensure that their respective communities have an equal opportunity at success at the University of Florida. However, not everyone seems to value the work that is done by these organizations.

Gil Sanchez explained in his conversation with Dr. Paul Ortiz that the power structure at the University of Florida is not made to allow minority students to achieve high-ranking positions. Gil Sanchez expressed it best: Student Government and the Greek organizations that dominate in SG only seek to promote and protect each other. Minority students are meant to take the positions that are offered to them, not the ones that they truly desire. And issues run deeper than lack of minority student representation in public office.

The needs of minority student communities are often silenced in deference to the wants and desires, the speakers and artists desired by SG, SGP, ACCENT . . . the list goes on. The vision and expertise of BSU, PSU, and HSA are not considered when these student organizations are trying to organize events for their communities. At the end of the day as students, we are not treated with respect. One student was told by an SGP student leader that “they could not afford to spend $80,000 on a concert to have it not sell out and it appear like we favor minority organizations.”  Considering the amount of heart and energy that “minority” organizations do to retain, recruit, empower and educate minority students that we should be dismissed is an error of the part of SG and the University of Florida itself for not being more invested in its minority student population.

But if the university at large does not seem to be much invested in minority student communities, why should we as students be invested? I think part of that question can be found in Mr. Sanchez’s visit. Gil Sanchez said that to this day, he still believes that if all the minority student communities came together, we could see the day where a Hispanic or African-American or Asian-American student could be Student Body President. However, I think as student we should take the challenge one step further. We should all come together; we should attempt to speak in unison and not isolation. However, we should seek unity not to achieve the goals that others expect of us but rather to realize the dreams that we dream for ourselves. Our time is now.

 

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