Jose Cisneros’ dedication to art was an inspiration ©
by Ray Sanchez
Please excuse me if I digress from my usual type of column. It’s because I grew up witnessing the making of a genius. Jose Cisneros, one of El Paso’s greatest artists who was known and honored throughout the world, was my brother in law. He passed away on Nov. 14 at the age of 99.
I was a little tyke during the depression of the 1930s. My parents owned a two story house near the corner of Montana Avenue and Campbell Street. Jose and my sister, Vicenta, moved in after they were married and lived in the upstairs section.
Jose, a good-looking young man with the finest of manners and a sense of humor, was an immediate hit in our family. He would have fit in anywhere.
JOSE WORKED at that time as a window trimmer at the White House Department Store. He took care of arranging the window displays. But his passion was drawing. He would come home after work, have supper and head straight for a drawing board he had managed to acquire from somewhere. And he would draw. And draw. And draw.
I was absolutely fascinated by him. I would sit on the floor and watch. “Why,” I wondered, “is he working so hard at this?” Little did I imagine the fame he would achieve.
Every now and then he would take one of his drawings he didn’t like and throw it on the floor. I would grab it and oh, how I wish now I had kept all of them.
EVENTUALLY, Jose and my sister moved into their own house. But he had made an unforgettable impression on me. In fact, I started to draw myself. I was in love with sports and action figures. I drew figures of Batman and Superman and even turned out a comic strip for my own pleasure. Then the Army beckoned. When I came home I got married and took up sports journalism at UTEP, then known as Texas College of Mines.
Jose seemed to get a kick out of my marriage and what little success I was achieving as a writer. I think he looked upon me more as a son or younger brother. He loved to tell jokes and counseled me on several occasions. He drew special paintings for me and my wife and signed dedications on some of them. One of them reads “To Helen and Ray with love.” Another reads “To Helen and Ray con mucho carino,” which translates into “To Helen and Ray with much tenderness.” Oh, how we treasure those two.
NEARLY EVERY time I visited him he gave me one of his paintings, including originals. I have some hanging all over our house and there are others in a drawer.
But he did even more for me. I’ve written or co-written seven books, six of them on sports. Jose illustrated the covers for three of them. They’re “The gods of Racing,” “El Paso’s Greatest Sports Heroes” and “Baseball: From Browns to Diablos.” Jose’s illustrations for the books were out of this world and enhanced the books’ value. I begged him to send in an invoice. He wouldn’t hear of it.
JOSE’S ART has been admired throughout the world, from the man on the street to kings and presidents. He was even knighted by the king of Spain. More than that, he was admired for his humble ways, his generosity and his dedication to his art, his wife and his family.
To me, he was even more. He showed me that hard work and dedication to one’s craft is always rewarding. We didn’t remain close as he became world famous. I didn’t want to seem like I was taking advantage of his fame. But I followed his amazing rise in the world with the warmest of feelings. He was my star, my hero, my inspiration, my brother-in-law.
And I loved him.
Veteran sports journalist and author Ray Sanchez welcomes suggestions for his column. Contact him at (915) 584-0626, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or online at www.raysanchezbooks.com