"There's a sense of Puerto Rican pride, and people want me to look a certain way," she says. "They have pride in their heritage and they're proud they migrated here. I respect that, because I lived their story."
So it's no surprise that on Sunday, Sanchez, 44, is a dignitary in the city's 50th-anniversary Puerto Rican Day Parade.
After she strides up Benjamin Franklin Parkway, with floats, dancers and musicians before and after her, the Phillie Phanatic twirls her around.
In black heels, black pants, a pink, yellow and black print top, a gold necklace and earrings and coral-red nail polish, Sanchez is not alone for a second.
Women want photos with her. Others bound up to hug her.
She makes her way over to her mom, Bienvenida (Spanish for "welcome") Neris, 66. "She always believed in me," Sanchez says, putting her arm around her pint-sized mother in a red suit.
Sanchez, a married mom of two sons, ages 24 and 14, comes from humble roots. At 6 months old, she emigrated with her family to Philly, where they lived in public housing in Spring Garden.
Her dad, with a third-grade education, was a migrant worker. Her mom, one of 18 siblings, dropped out of sixth grade to help care for the others. In Philly, she was a garment worker before toiling 30 years as a Temple University housekeeper on the night shift.
Soaking in the parade, Sanchez's son, Thomas, a Central High School freshman, grins impishly when he admits he doesn't tell his friends who is mom is.
"I don't want to live in her shadow," he says.
- Barbara Laker
Chillin' Wit' is a regular feature of the Daily News that spotlights a name in the news away from the job. Contact Barbara Laker at email@example.com or 215-854-5933. Follow her on Twitter: @barbaralaker.