San Pancho’s history has much to do with the history of national politics and, therefore, with how the country was envisioned during the seventies, specifically during the term of President Luis Echeverría, between 1970 and 1976.
On one hand, although the land distribution had, in theory, concluded, at the beginning of the seventies a new wave of estate owners began to emerge who wanted to take over the land belonging to co-proprietors and rights holders of communal lands or ejidos. One of the solutions to this problem was the creation of communal land liaisons, which consisted in the union of two or more ejido plots in order to prevent estate owners from taking over the property.
On the other hand, following the accomplishments of the Mexican Revolution, especially the redistribution of land into communal property and ejidos, the next step was to kick start government programs in order to make them productive. The provision of communal land promoted the creation of rural community businesses.
In 1972, the Unión Ejidal Bahía de Banderas was created as one of the two pilot government projects, made up of eight ejidos, including Sayulita. Around the same time the federal highway was inaugurated, therefore facilitating access to the region, making way for tourism. To achieve this, communal lots in coastal areas begin to be expropriated. In Sayulita, 544 hectares were expropriated and the Bahia de Banderas Trust was created in order to appropriately employ the resources from the expropriated land.
Then the mega plan to develop the area began which consisted of improving urban infrastructure by outlining and paving streets, installing drainage systems, sewage, electric wiring and the construction of public plazas, schools and residences in towns like Lo de Marcos, Higuera Blanca, San Francisco y Sayulita.
The place intended to be the center of the agrarian development was San Francisco (San Pancho). Therefore, in addition to the already mentioned infrastructure, it was a place chosen to relocate people who lived in poverty in the ejidos and the place where many experimental educational centers were created. The San Pancho hospitality school was founded, touristic facilitates were built, as well as a hospital clinic, the Estudios Tecnologicos del Mar institution and a self-sustainable elementary school, with a greenhouse, two school buses, a library and a field for agricultural activities.
Also, the Agro-industrial Complex CONASUPO was built, intended to process dairy products, balanced food products, wood boxes, soap, canning fruits and vegetables, coquito oil, meats, cold meats, fish and seafood.
But this dream didn’t last long. Local estate owners felt their economic interests were being threatened and took control of the ejido communal union, drove out the community developers, leaving established businesses destitute and abandoned. In around 1988, all facilities were dismantled, leaving only the regional hospital. All the infrastructure of other projects was left abandoned.
The warehouses were passed on to the State’s Ministry of Economic Development, whose responsibility was to manage them in order to promote industrial activities and employment. Among the ventures there was a fruit dehydrating company called FRUTAIR SA de CV, which received fruit from the region such as mango, pineapple, papaya and banana; Tim Shunen’s furniture manufacturer, a fish packaging businesses and a project to sell embroidery clothing. However, none of these projects were successful.
Little by little, just like the Nayarit Riviera and Bahía de Banderas, it began to turn into a touristic center sought after by foreigners, mainly those from California, Colorado and Canada. This, along with the agrarian law reform of 1992 which allowed the commercialization of communal lands, produced the sale of a large number of coastline territory. Many buyers were foreigners who acquired the land to build retirement homes or real estate developments. This is how San Pancho’s cultural and social diversity grew and how new processes were generated.
The other history of La San Pancho begins just 20 years ago and, like many others, it is a mixture of coincidences and joint efforts which translates into its great current success.
San Pancho has been a place that has attracted people who are interested in the environment, the arts and the culture, coming from places that are very diverse and with very different origins and backgrounds. They find themselves in a specific time and place, share common interests, learn from one another and resume what others left behind.
The residents remember that an American named Frank Smith and Elvia Garcia, voluntarily organized workshops, focused on beach clean-up, recycling, trash separation and the release of turtles. In 1992 they founded the Costa Verde Ecology Group and the first turtle hatchery was implemented in town. Another Mexican family, Rocío and Rodolfo Álvarez Tostado, also contributed to the development of these programs.
The founders of these projects, with the purpose of improving and learning more about environmental issues turned to Eric Saracho and Gabriela Loreto from the University Center of Puerto Vallarta’s Coast, to offer recycling workshops at the San Pancho Hospital. In 2002 they came to live in San Pancho and begin to identify problems related with the estuary and the sewage treatment plant. A few years later, they established the Janguar Alliance. Around that same time, Nicole Swedlow, founder of Entreamigos came to San Pancho.
Little by little, the intentions of a few residents begin to take on a life of their own and, taking advantage of the abandoned structure that had once been the agro-industrial complex, began to form what is currently the Bodegas Cultural Center of San Pancho, integrated by the following projects: