Painter Jesus Sanchez started at the U of M in 1999 working as a temporary contractor on a special project in Moos Tower … and has never left. He has enjoyed restoring the university facilities too much to leave.
“When we get to do some work on the (campus buildings), you can tell what you did,” says Sanchez. “That’s an awesome feeling. You can really see that you did something good for those buildings.”
A native of Morelos, Mexico, Sanchez grew up with dreams of visiting the United States. He got his chance in the summer of 1984 when he took part in a visa program for Mexican students to work on farms to help pay their college tuition.
Sanchez said working in the U.S. was a great experience and he kept all of his pay stubs so that he could show his children later in life that he had been to the U.S. He went back again the next year and the following year became a citizen by virtue of a new law offering citizenship to every Mexican farm worker who had at least 90 days work in the fields. By keeping his pay stubs, Sanchez was able to prove he was eligible.
Next, he moved to Van Nuys, California, where he worked for two years in a warehouse, and then as a truck driver, before becoming a painter.
Sanchez learned the trade by doing prep work for a contractor, including sanding windows and walls each day until his fingertips bled. It was so hard that he quit about 10 times in the first year.
Eventually, he started actually painting and began to like the job. Sanchez continued painting for an independent commercial contractor after moving to Minnesota in 1999, before landing his job with the U of M.
After 15 years as a painter, Sanchez believes that people really don’t know how hard painting is. “They think it looks simple and easy,” he says. “It takes preparation, both mentally and physically. You have to think before you paint. You have to be able to see it done before you actually do it.”
Sanchez and his wife, Carmen, now live in South St. Paul with their two daughters Diane, 16, and Liliana, 14. He goes to every basketball game his daughters play. Sanchez and his wife grew up in the same town in Mexico, but did not start dating until he had moved to the United States.