San Pancho Living
San Francisco, San Pancho—no matter what you call it, you’ll feel at home
The first people to call this region home were indigenous Indian groups, including the Cora and Huichol. In 1524 Don Francisco Cortés de Buenaventura named the area Azapan, and the Spanish christened the town San Francisco de Azapan.
“San Francisco” is what you see on maps and highway signs, but Mexicans and those in-the-know fondly call it San Pancho.
San Pancho is located in the Mexican state of Nayarit, and is part of the Riviera Nayarit, a gorgeous “let’s move here” 192-mile stretch of Pacific coastline. This enchanting pueblo is tucked between a mile-long sandy beach and the jungle-covered Sierra Madre mountains.
A welcoming, laid-back and caring community
San Pancho is home to 1,500 or so full-time residents and a growing number of seasonal residents from the U.S., Canada, Europe and Latin America.
This is a friendly, prosperous pueblo with an artistic vibe and flipflop dress code. It’s easy to meet people and feel a sense of belonging.
Those who live here share a strong community spirit. Entreamigos is San Pancho’s beloved community center (and bi-lingual library, out-of-school center, recycling center, cafe, thrift store and boutique).
In 2014, the Dalai Lama personally acknowledged and thanked its founder and executive director, Nicole Swedlow, as an Unsung Hero of Compassion. Visitors are welcome, and may be put to work for an hour or two!
Circo de los Niños, a nonprofit founded by Cirque du Soleil co-creator Gilles Ste-Croix and his wife Monique Voyer (who live in San Pancho), encourages the artistic, technical and personal development of over 100 local children by teaching them circus disciplines and performing arts.
They star in its spectacular annual fundraising show. This jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring circus performance reflects nine months of rigorous training, hundreds of hours of volunteer work, and donations from supporters.
Additional nonprofit organizations protect the nesting turtles on San Pancho’s beach (Grupo Ecologico has released over one million hatchlings), other local wildlife, and the environment.
From fishing village to a president’s pet project
As the early Spanish put down roots and began to develop ports at San Blas to the north and Puerto Vallarta to the south, the region began to slowly increase in population.
Over the centuries, like many coastal pueblos in Mexico, San Pancho evolved into a small fishing and farming village populated by four extended families.
Then, in the early 1970s, its history changed course when Mexico’s president Luis Echeverría came for a visit. He succumbed to San Pancho’s charms and adopted it as his own.
He built a vacation mansion for his family, and set about transforming San Pancho into a self-sustaining town for third-world nations to model (which is why many streets are named after developing countries).
To build an infrastructure, he directed federal funding to his pet project, and attracted laborers with free land and houses in exchange for laying cobblestone streets, plumbing and electrical systems.
They built houses, a church and town plaza, schools, and a hospital. They planted mango orchards and built factories to process fruit as well as fish.
San Pancho lost its visionary benefactor when President Echeverría fled Mexico to avoid prosecution for alleged criminal acts. The town relied on food processing until the mid-1990s, when U.S. and Canadian visitors began arriving, fell in love with the pueblo, and began building vacation houses.
Thanks to President Echeverría’s vision for a model town, modern development is thoughtful.