Elisa Facio (1979)


Elisa passed away peacefully in her parent's home in West Sacramento on Thursday, August 30, 2018 after an extensive battle with terminal cancer. She was a lovingly surrounded by her mother, sister and niece and embraced by Native American spiritual music as she made her final journey.

Elisa was born on April 28, 1957 in Toppenish, WA. Elisa's parents, seeking a better life for their new family moved to West Sacramento, CA. Elisa along with her younger brother Ernie Jr. and sister Cynthia actively engaged in school and youth sports activities. Elisa graduated with honors from James Marshall High School in West Sacramento in1975.

Elisa began the next phase of her transformation into a nationally and internationally recognized scholar and activist. Elisa graduated from Santa Clara University (Cum Laude) with a B.S. in Sociology, and a M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California , Berkley. Upon receiving her doctorate, Elisa was awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship from the National Institute of Aging (NIA) at the University of California, San Francisco. In 1991, Elisa was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She received tenure and was promoted to an Associate Professor. She also held an affiliate faculty appointment in the Women and Gender Studies Department. In 2014, Elisa accepted an appointment at Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA as Associate Professor and Director of the Chicano Education Program. Elisa's last appointment was at Sonoma State University in the fall of 2017. Over a 20 Year academic career, Elisa's research and teaching interests were embedded in the areas of age, aging and generations, Chicana and Indigenous feminist knowledge(s), Social movements, health care studies, globalization and gender studies, research methods including Indigenous and feminist epistemologies and spirituality studies.

Among the many distinctions, honors and accolades of her career was the 1996 National Hispanic Teacher of the Year ( Hispanic Magazine), Rockefeller Postdoctoral Fellow, Washington State University (1997), Outstanding Scholar Award, Boulder, (2002), Equity and Excellence Teaching Award CU, Boulder (2010), and the Champion of International Education for Study Abroad Students for Faculty Directors-Cuba Global Seminar, CU, Boulder (2010). Elisa's Publications include Understanding Older Chicanas: Sociological and Public Policies Perspectives (1996), and co-edited anthologies Enduring Legacies: Ethnic Histories and cultures of Colorado (2011), and Fleshing the Spirit. Spiriting the Flesh. Spirituality and Activism in Chicana, Latina, and Indigenous Women's Lives (2014). Her most recent book Fleshing the Spirit is highly acclaimed publication recognizing the radical interconnection between feminista spirituality, women of color and social activism.

As a distinguished professor, Elisa's teaching philosophy was a true commitment toward creating and or enhancing a diverse and inclusive learning and living environment for all her students with a particular focus on student communities marginalized by race, gender, class, sexuality, age, citizenship and ableism. Elisa enjoyed the classroom because she always respectfully utilized this space as a location on intellectual and spiritual transformation for her students and herself. Elisa considered being a teacher and educator her greatest accomplishment and her life's essence. Her intent was always to have an impact in her student's lives.

Elisa's commitment to Chicana and social activism was evidenced as a co-founder of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (MALCS), providing radical inspiration and guidance to the organization for over 30 years. She was recognized by MALCS with the Tortuga Award. Elisa was actively engaged in the Denver community and served as a longtime member of INCITE: Women of Color Against Violence and served as Board President for Sisters of Color United for Education. She also presented at many Denver schools and colleges as well as throughout the U.S., Europe, Mexico, Bahamas and Cuba to motivate and encourage students to continue with their educational aspirations.

Elisa traveled the world, but especially to visit her family in California. During some visits with her nieces and nephew, and her many family members she spent much time mentoring and motivating them to pursue their academic ambitions, college degrees and careers. She loved all types of music, going to the movies, and visiting family and friends. Elisa loved cooking her mother's authentic Mexican recipes. Elisa was an avid sports fan and attended many games of the Denver Nuggets, Denver Broncos and the Colorado Rockies. Elisa was a long time soccer and tennis fan, and recently enjoyed NCAAW and WNBA basketball.

Elisa now rests with her father, Ernie Facio, Sr. She is survived by her mother Petra (Pat) of West Sacramento, her brother Ernie Jr. (Deborah) of Elk Grove, her sister Cynthia Facio-Ortiz (Javier) of West Sacramento, and her nieces Vanessa Facio (Mandy), Cecily Ortiz (fiancé Tony), and nephew Christopher Jorrin (Rebecca). Her greatest joy, light, and life forces are her great nephews Aiden and Diego. Elisa was from a large family and is survived by numerous a aunts, uncles and cousins in California, Colorado and Washington. And finally, Elisa's pet companions Mr. Kitty Facio and Diego Rivera Facio are reunited and joined her on her final journey. Frida Kahlo Facio enjoys the attentive care she receives with her new foster mom and loves lounging in the sunshine everyday.


I arrived at Berkeley in 1979 anxious and eager to become a sociologist. However, the department was not quite prepared for a dark-skinned Chicana raised by working class parents. There were no safe spaces for my language, values, experiences, or transformations. Working with Michael Burawoy, Arlie Hochschild, Bob Blauner, Tomas Almaguer, Troy Duster and a core group of Chicanas in the department provided me with valuable skills, as I experienced unpredictable states of self-doubt and confidence, to negotiate a relatively safe space to develop critical race and gender perspectives on Chicana feminism and older Mexican women.

After graduating, I received a post-doctoral fellowship in medical sociology at UCSF then I was off to Boulder, where I joined the sociology faculty at the University of Colorado. However, I moved to the Department of Ethnic Studies where critical studies of anti-racist discourse and Chicana feminisms were welcomed. During my transition, I completed my first book Understanding Older Chicanas (SAGE, 1996). My teaching, research, and activism continue to focus on age and aging in the Chicana community. Being a student of Berkeley sociology, the commitment to social change or desalinization, lead me to Cuba where I've conducted research on Women and the Revolution during the last several years. I'm currently completing my second book on Cuban sex workers.

Despite the alienation experienced at Berkeley, I developed an identity as a Chicana sociologist, not a sociologist who happens to be Chicana. I have taken skills and values learned at Berkeley into interdisciplinary areas of research, teaching, and community activism in the Denver/Boulder area.

Dissertation Title: 
Constraints, Resources, and Self-Definitions: A Case Study of Chicano Older Women
Dissertation Book Title: 
Understanding older Chicanas