Ask me about San Pancho. On the maps and road signs, it is San Francisco. I may tell you that it is just a place in Mexico. Others will tell you it is a magical little pueblo, undiscovered by the typical tourist, holding it as their secret, somewhat possessively. As you meet people you will discover those who feel that they have found their soul here, or simply a place to be away from the pace and entanglements of other lives, previous lives. It is different things to different people. But the reality of San Pancho is best experienced slowly. First it is a Mexican
place. It is their place. As far as any place on earth can belong to anyone if you would know San Pancho I urge you to recognize that it belongs to them. It is a place to contribute if you want but not to impose, not to assume that you bring a better way of being, enlightenment. Arrogance, where it exists, is imported. There is an absence of belligerence and tension. No one really cares who you were and these things are not a part of the natural social landscape, the personality of this place. If you find pretentiousness it will have been brought in, often in subtle form. If you linger you will find many interesting people and few who "put on airs".You may exist here and enjoy the "tranquility" so often mentioned but if you would know San Pancho you must know its people and its
quiet energy, its peace with itself. These things are infectious. This quality of life will affect you if you pay attention to it, only if you look and only if you see. It is easy enough to be here and be apart. The Mexicans notice and accept this without apparent judgement. It doesn't change their courtesy toward you. You are simply passing through, passing by. If you embrace the people and things of San Pancho there is a greater sense of being welcomed, but not needed. Make no mistake the infusion of tourist dollars is a boon and gladly accepted. But San Pancho would go on without this and for much of the year does. Remove all of this and it would be discovered again. For now, we are fortunate to have found this wonderful place and even more fortunate to enjoy its ambience, its sights and sounds and contentment with itself.
People find San Pancho. If they remain or come back they may be fortunate to truly discover it. But its difference is felt by most
immediately. Many have gravitated here from other "getaways" in Mexico gradually moving along the coast some having heard of this special place. Some will ask about it trying to understand its allure. Some just feel a difference as they explore. There are few expectations except those set for oneself. There is, again in subtle form, the hope that you will honour it and its people as you take it in. There is a willingness to share it but you are not needed to make it better. If, in learning about San Pancho, you sincerely wish to contribute in some way the doors are open. If you simply wish to enjoy it you will find no resistance. If you want a quiet place in the sun San Pancho will do nicely. But there is so much more to experience. No more is required than to be open to its offerings. More than anything it is not so much a place as it is people.
Don't look for hotels here. There are a few "boutique hotels" with six
rooms sitting quietly on a side street. Don't come to shop. You will find the usual Mexican wares along Tercer Mundo, which stretches from the highway to the beach, and on the little Malencon at the Playa. If you look further you will discover truly Mexican handiwork, art, and crafts. As you continue your walk you may be surprised to discover "tiendas" sprinkled here and there offering unexpected products, clothing, hand-made jewelry, and food products which are unique. A walk down Tercer Mundo offers an insight into San Pancho. The more you walk the more you will see. The sights and sounds to be seen and heard at different times of the day may be all you need to understand and to be hooked. But you must look and listen closely. It is really quite easy.
Don't look here for fancy restaurants, there are a few. But if you are open to experiencing "Mexican" you are in the right place. From the most modest food stand to the slightly less modest but still unassuming offerings and establishments the authenticity of San Pancho is delivered in tastes, and smells, sounds, and sights. There are of course provisions for those who need familiar tastes for their palates. These range from the very well done to the less well done all somewhat more expensive for those who expect this. Regardless you will be greeted with the same
hospitality, courtesy, and friendliness ingrained in this special place. You will not likely have time to find them all but there should be no rush to do so. Certainly a short stay is not enough. Come back or stay longer. There should be no urgency if you understand the nature of what surrounds you. They will be there unpretentiously appearing, allowing you to discover them. They spill out onto the sidewalks and the road, some early and others much later, some closed one day and open the next. Restaurants in San Pancho come and go each year. But those which fail are not part of the fabric. They are attempts to provide something new and different for visitors. They do not survive the summer. San Pancho does not come to them. It has no need. They must endure without this. Some do. Some mistake the realities here clinging to a vision. They are not unwelcome to try. But such ventures are not for the faint of heart. They are almost a curiosity. Will they be here next year?
If you walk early you will see the pueblo being prepared, the sidewalks swept and washed, the tables set out on the sidewalk or road carefully set up regardless of their simplicity, the markets open for business from early until late, the mothers walking their children to school all immaculately dressed and happy. Always families. The Mexicans begin their day early and work hard but there is no rush. The pace is slow without urgency. The work will be done, in time. To say there is a lack of energy would be a grievous mistake. There is simply an absence of what leads most of us to almost frantically shape and manage our lives elsewhere. Then there is the music.
There is always music in San Pancho. It begins early in the day seeping out of doorways and drifting out of backstreets and from rooftops. It is not intrusive. It is not an imposition. It is rarely abrasive. It is not everywhere but it is always there, somewhere. It comes from the cinderblock cantina where a group of Mexican men gather. There it is mariachi. But there is not much mariachi. You will just as likely hear a soft Spanish ballad or love song as you walk by in the early hours or in the evening. It may cause you to stop and listen or just pass by with your spirit lifted. As the day turns into evening and families, the young and the old, couples and singles, walk, gather and pass by on Tercer Mundo music slowly fills the air. You will see solitary musicians quietly playing guitar content in their private experience not seeking any attention. From 7 o'clock until 10 there will be live music mostly in restaurants serving the tourist population. In some, there will be Mexicans. Often the music is played just off the sidewalk available to any passerby. Listen and watch across the street. There is no exclusivity. Where the food is good the music becomes a delightful addition. It is often amazing. You may hear jazz, folk, always Spanish instrumentals and vocals, English songs from the past and present sung in Spanish or English, or french. You may hear flute, occasionally a saxophone, even a violin or a primitive drum. It would be easy to say that the music is simply made better by the ambience of a San Pancho night but this would wrong. The music is frequently
exceptional. Most of the musicians clearly struggle to live this way, depending on a fee provided and on the tips of customers but they appear to love what they do. The love of music which they convey, from the most talented of them to the less talented, is infectious. You can dance if you wish in any space available, among the tables, in the street, on the beach, for a moment as you pass. The restaurant music will end sometimes going as late 10 or even 11 o'clock. But there is still music into the night. It is rarely accompanied by "partying" except in the case of occasional young visitors in town for a wedding or simply importing the same urgency to play, loudly, which is so foreign to San Pancho. They pass through possibly having been told politely that there are by-laws or eventually understanding that they have mistaken this place for somewhere else. Private parties, often weddings, can be heard to carry on into the wee hours but these are isolated and rare. As for the Mexican people who live here and who come here, there is music and celebration which never seems to go beyond the simple enjoyment of life and a respect which contains but does not seem to limit them. It lacks belligerence and the frenzy of celebration so often seen elsewhere. And so San Pancho days come quietly to a close with the music receding but barely disappearing into the night. People slowly make their way to their casas. This day has been good and tomorrow will also be good. The sights and sounds will continue another day. But they will slowly emerge.
An evening may be passed in the quiet enjoyment of wonderful Mexican food in the smallest ristorante. You will likely sit in the street or on the sidewalk or on a rooftop, a palapa. A few will offer inside dining but for the most part, they are open to the day and the night. They are outside an extension of the openness of the pueblo. You will meet people. The servers, proprietors, and sometimes the musicians, will happily take the time to have a conversation.You may see them on the street tomorrow and they will take time again. Stay as long as you like. As you sit people will pass by on the sidewalk or the street, again, couples and families enjoying the same things. Do not be surprized to see children out with their parents quite late. This is a precious time for them and there is an absence of misbehavior. Horses and caballeros may pass behind you.