SAN PANCHO, BRIEF HISTORY
Reflecting back to 1974 there were probably no more than 100 people, representing four different families, living here. In 1975, when San Pancho was “born”, the population grew to about 250 people. No one seems to know exactly how many people live here today, but the number is somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 (and 80% of them are likely to be related to those original four families).
Luis Echeverria, Mexico’s President from 1970 until 1976, is recognized as the founding father and architect of the charming pueblo of San Pancho. During his presidency, Echeverria discovered, and fell in love with, the dramatic peninsula outcropping between the fishing villages of Sayulita and San Pancho. However, San Pancho was his favorite. During this time it is believed that there were only four extended families living here and a total of approximately 100 people. The president so loved it here that he invented reasons to spend time here, landing his presidential helicopter on the beach at least once a week to pass time sipping coffee and visiting with the few locals (fishermen, farmers, and their families).
Echeverria set out to shape San Pancho into a model of self-sufficiency that third- world countries everywhere could emulate.
The houses that existed in San Pancho before 1975 were either simple grass huts or roughly constructed cement block houses without electricity or running water. Echeverria described his plans to the locals (who had come to admire and trust him) to enroll them in helping him to realize his dream. He convinced them to bring friends and families from other towns to help with the labor and in return, these workers were each given a nice plot of land and a house.
Newly recruited workers labored over the next year to lay the streets, including plumbing and electricity, and built 20-30 modest homes (most of which are still standing today). All of these houses were in the area from the beach to the church and a little east to the hospital.
Houses that are typical of the Mexican culture, were built very close to the sidewalk but they had large parcels of land behind them that was part of their land grant. As you walk the streets of San Pancho, you can peek between the houses and see there are extended families now living in tiny houses “little” family compounds. As children grew and married, they tended to construct their homes in the back yard of their parents house. Often there are 4 or 5 families with houses behind the home of the parents. They share cooking, chores, child-care, expenses and lots of family time together.
The San Pancho project also included the building of schools. We have a kindergarten, primary and secondary school. The families that choose to send their children to high school send them by bus to either La Cruz, La Penita or Bucerias.
San Pancho also included the construction of a (then) state-of-the-art teaching hospital which is still serving the surrounding villages.
The land was fertile and vast, so they planted acres of fruit orchards in the unused land behind the new village and then they built huge factories to process all that fruit providing yet another source of income for the new residents. Those factories still stand at the entrance to San Pancho, but are no longer used for their original purpose. Many of the trees from those orchards are still here and still bear fruit.
Because fishing was - and still is, the passion of the inhabitants, Echeverria erected a modern fish-processing center (still standing, but unused). It is located just behind the town plaza and this is where the fisherman brought their day’s catch to clean and sell. Today, restaurant owners from Puerto Vallarta and other village still flock to San Pancho daily to buy our fish because of its freshness and abundance but now they go directly to the fisherman’s homes to make their purchases.
In Mexico, the church is the heart of any community. So, these early arrivals to San Pancho built themselves a small church and a large town plaza so they would have a place to congregate and to celebrate the many events of their lives. During your vacation you may see festivals in progress in the church plaza feel free to join in! The plaza is used for birthdays, weddings, music festivals, discos, Zumba dance, a town market (on Tuesday’s during peak season) and special events.
HISTORY OF SAN PANCHO