Weslaco library to host book festival in honor of late mayor, literacy advocate

The Second Annual Mayor Joe V. Sanchez Book Festival will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday. (Courtesy photo)

The public library in Weslaco will celebrate the life and legacy of its namesake, the late Mayor Joe V. Sanchez, with a book festival Saturday afternoon.

The festival will feature appearances by about 20 local authors representing multiple genres, author and poetry panels, book giveaways, children’s story time, free popcorn and other snacks and live music, according to Weslaco Library Director Arnoldo Becho.

“We’re just trying to celebrate the legacy of former Mayor Sanchez and hopefully show the community a good time,” Becho said.

Saturday’s event will mark the festival’s second year celebrating the longtime mayor who served two lengthy stints as Weslaco’s top elected official, as well as his career in education.

Sanchez served as Weslaco mayor from 1975 to 1981 and again from 2001 to 2007.

Along the way, he also served as one of the city’s most beloved educators and rose from school teacher, to principal to superintendent, according to his son, Jose Sanchez III.

Some of Jose’s earliest childhood memories involve growing up in a home that was “always just littered with books,” magazines and newspapers, he said.

The younger Sanchez recalls being just 6 years old when his father first became a school teacher.

Joe Sanchez’s love for literature and passion for education prompted him to buy a World Book encyclopedia set for his own children at the start of his education career.

As time went on, and as Jose and his four younger siblings devoured the information in those encyclopedias, Joe Sanchez upgraded their collection to include a set of Encyclopedia Britannica, Jose said.

Ultimately, their father’s passion for learning passed on to them, Jose said, as all five children went on to pursue careers in education, as well.

Jose retired after 27 years as an elementary school teacher.

“Both my brother and I have a masters in education. My sister Ana … she worked for the College Board. … Nina is a teacher at Weslaco East (High School) to this day,” Jose said.

That’s why it means so much to Jose and the rest of his family to see Weslaco honoring his father’s legacy by continuing to promote a love for literacy within the local community.

“It’s an enormous amount of pride, family pride,” Jose, an author himself, said. “Hopefully, that’s what people will remember, is civic involvement and promoting education.”

Members of the Sanchez family will be on-hand during the event, including some of the late mayor’s grandchildren, who will be moderating some of the author panels.

But beyond that, the festival will showcase a number of local authors — writers born and bred in the Rio Grande Valley.

Becho, the library director, said he hopes shining a spotlight on local authors will serve as motivation for other hopefuls.

“I think it sends a message to the community that, ‘Hey, you know what, we can do it,’” Becho said. “If we have a dream to write something or create something, it’s something that look like me, act like me, and came from the same places like me have done it before.”

The Second Annual Mayor Joe V. Sanchez Book Festival will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday.

The library is located at 525 S. Kansas Ave. in Weslaco.