Celebrating the Life of Writer, Activist Chiori Santiago

By Gary Carr
Friday June 22, 2007

Chiori Santiago passed away on April 14, 2007 from kidney cancer. She will be missed dearly by her family and extended community of friends and colleagues. Chiori’s life was about sharing her great joy, love and wisdom of the many cultures, people and plants that make up our world.  

As a writer Chiori Santiago covered visual art, performance and music in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1986. Her articles and essays appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, Smithsonian, Latina, Parenting, World Art, American Craft, Pulse and many other fine publications. She worked as associate editor of the Oakland Museum of California’s publication; and was editor of Nikkei Heritage, the magazine of the National Japanese American Historical Society. 

In 1998, Chiori published a children’s book, Home to Medicine Mountain, with artist Judith Lowry. The book earned an American Book Award and recognition from Stepping Stones magazine and the American Library Association.  

Chiori won the “Maggie” Award for Best Column from the Western States Publishers Association for her writing in Diablo magazine, among numerous other awards. Chiori was a contributor to the book The Spirit of Oakland: An Anthology, and editor of the book Voices Of Latin Rock: Music From The Streets, an oral history of San Francisco’s Latin rock scene. 

Chiori appeared as an arts commentator on KQED-TV’s This Week in Northern California, a news-in-review program hosted by Belva Davis. She also served as co-host of The Greenroom, a live radio program on the arts produced at KPFA. 

In addition to journalism, Chiori Santiago was recognized for her work with the San Francisco Arts Commission, the Mexican Museum, the National Japanese American Historical Society, the University of California, Berkeley, the Puente Project, the City of Berkeley, the Oakland Museum of California’s Asian Pacific Advisory Council, and Sustainable Agriculture Education. She also participated in creating the San Francisco Japantown History Walk, and a series of interpretive markers along the Bay Trail for Richmond’s Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park.  

Chiori’s photograph and self-description was included in Kip Fulbeck’s book Part Asian, 100 Percent Happa (2006), which has been turned into a traveling exhibition.  

After attending horticulture classes at Merritt College, she began a landscape gardening business and worked in many gardens in the Bay Area the last five years of her life.  

Chiori is survived by her sons Roberto Santiago and Ignacio Palmieri, sister Reiko Roberts, brother Terri Tajiki, her mother Yoshiko Tajiki, and many uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews.  

Please join family and friends for a memorial to celebrate Chiori’s life on July 14, 3-8 p.m. in the garden of the Oakland Museum of California, Oak Street at 10th Street. (One block from the Lake Merritt BART station.) Please bring food and drink to share, as well as any pictures or objects you would like to contribute to the making of an altar.