For me, El Tecolote was born at exactly the right time.

When the first edition appeared 53 years ago this month, on August 24, 1970, I was a young man in transition. I had just graduated from Jefferson High School in Daly City, where I had discovered journalism at the last minute, and I was bound for San Francisco State College, eager to explore the writing arts.

Pursuing that goal, I became a Tecolote staff writer, by enrolling in La Raza Journalism, a class that produced the free bilingual newspaper at SF State, for distribution in the Mission District every two weeks.   

My involvement, starting with the second edition in September 1970, led to a 32-year career as a professional news reporter — first, at The Palm Beach Post in Florida and later, The Sacramento Bee. While most of my assignments were local, I also covered news across the Americas, including three expeditions to document the civil war in my homeland, El  Salvador.

Now semi-retired, I say: “Thank you, Tecolote. My gratitude for opening doors for me. Your impact endures.”

1972. El Tecolote reporter Edgar Sanchez (right) covers the arrival of then New York Mayor and presidential candidate, John Lindsay (left), at San Francisco International Airport, 1972. Photo: Joe Ramos


My introduction to journalism was accidental. It happened in a Latino Affairs Class unveiled at Jefferson High five months before my graduation. No such course had ever existed at Jefferson. Its rollout coincided with the arrival of the long-delayed La Raza movement, which begat greater self-pride among Brown youth.

The class drew nearly 40 Latinos on day one, in January 1970. The teacher, Mr. John Armenta, welcomed us.

I don’t recall his first lessons.

I do recall that attendance rapidly plunged.

One day, Mr. Armenta asked the 10 remaining students: “Would you like to put out a newspaper?”

We said “Yes!” even though media work was not in the course description. We christened our paper La Verdad — the truth.

La Verdad, a rudimentary four-page tabloid, was printed twice in the waning days of my senior year. 

The first edition, dated May 11, 1970, contained my first news story, in English, about a recent anti-police protest in the Mission.

My writing was horrible. Yet there was something electric about seeing my words in print. 


Just as two editions of La Verdad hit Jefferson High, SF State’s inaugural La Raza Journalism class was completing its first semester — without producing a newspaper.

That class had come into being in January 1970 in SF State’s La Raza Studies, one of three newly created departments in the college’s School of Ethnic Studies, that opened in the fall of 1969.

Creation of the School satisfied a key objective of a five-month strike begun in November 1968 by pro-equality students. They had accused SF State of racism, by under-enrolling students of color and teaching a skewed Ethnic history.

As 1970 dawned, echoes of the uprising — marked by repeated clashes with police — still reverberated.

With peace restored, the first La Raza Journalism class learned news writing from Professor Juan Gonzales, the course’s founder.
“At that time, we didn’t have a publication where the stories would appear,” he said of the class.

It wasn’t until the summer of 1970 that some of his students voluntarily put together El Tecolote’s four-page debut edition. That spring, Professor Gonzales had cited the need for a bilingual paper to serve the Mission, home to an ever-increasing Latino population.

That September, I matriculated at SF State through EOP, or the Educational Opportunity Program, a special-admissions program founded the previous fall for underrepresented students. EOP’s creation represented yet another victory for the 1968 strikers.

My only advantage when I joined La Raza Journalism in September 1970:  I could type.

“I remember you were anxious to write,” Professor Gonzales told me recently. “Your writing skills were still in development …”

Besides writing, Tecolote staffers crafted headlines, laid out the paper and distributed it.  

El Tecolote reporter Edgar Sanchez interviews Ersi Arvizu of the iconic band, El Chicano, 1971. Photo: Joe Ramos


My biggest story for El Tecolote unfolded on a rainy Saturday in November 1970, in San Francisco’s Hall of Justice.

After six days of deliberation, a jury returned its verdict that day in the case of six young Latinos charged with murdering San Francisco police officer Joseph Brodnik and assaulting his partner, Paul McGoran.  The defendants were called Los Siete, or the seven, even though a seventh suspect was not captured.

Sitting in a packed courtroom, I watched as the jury acquitted Los Siete of murder and assault, prompting loud, tearful rejoicing by their families.

Like many tragedies, the May 1, 1969 incident occurred in a flash. It began when the two plainclothes officers confronted some or all of the youths as they carried a television into a car from a Mission District home.

Prosecutors claimed that during an ensuing scuffle, one of Los Siete grabbed McGoran’s gun and shot Brodnik with it.

Defense attorneys disagreed. They maintained Brodnik died from what today is known as “friendly fire.” They asserted that McGoran accidentally shot his partner during the tussle with suspects they deemed to be burglars.

During the four-month trial, the defense portrayed San Francisco police as “an occupation force within the Mission” — a force that was ultraviolent and bigoted, just like McGoran, the defense said.

After the acquittal, the defense team praised the jury, with Charles Garry, the formidable lead attorney, stating: “… If it was left up to the court, and the judge, and the prosecution, and the Police Department (the accused) would have rotted in hell or ended up in the gas chamber.” 

Los Siete, jailed without bail since May 1969, were soon freed. Los Siete were Gary Lescallett, Nelson Rodriguez, Danilo Melendez, Jose Rios and brothers Tony and Mario Martinez. Also, Gio Lopez, who avoided arrest.


I remained with El Tecolote during my four years at SF State. Along the way I chose to major in journalism, receiving a bachelor’s degree in June 1970.

Post-graduation, I interviewed at several newspapers. None would hire me.

In desperation I took a public relations job, which I held for 20 months, holding onto the dream of being a professional news reporter. 

I became one in 1976, with the help of the Summer Program for Minority Journalists at UC Berkeley. The 12-week program, which honed my skills, guaranteed reporting jobs to its graduates.

It sent me to the Palm Beach Post, my employer for the next eight and a half years.

In 1985, I joined The Sacramento Bee, staying with it for 23-plus years. In closing, my sincere thanks to everyone who helped my advancement,  including the 1968 SF State strikers.

El Tecolote reporter Edgar Sanchez poses for a portrait. Photo: Joe Ramos