The Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library recently debuted a new exhibit entitled “¡Yo Creo en Pancho Clos!” Items in this exhibit come from the SWC’s Bidal and Olga Agüero Papers and the Robert Narvaiz Collection, with some artifacts are on loan from Olga Agüero.
Chicano music legend Lalo Guerrero recorded his song “Pancho Claus” in 1956. The tune was a Chicano adaptation of the famous “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and created a figure that Chicano and Latino children could identify with. In Lubbock, Pancho Clos has become an endearing West Texas twist on Santa Claus, and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The figure highlights the Mexican American community’s desire to incorporate a bit of their own culture into the city’s landscape.
According to SWC oral histories and local media articles, the tradition began in 1971 after Agustín T. Medina, Sr., Jesse Reyes, and Bidal Agüero presented the idea to the Lubbock American G. I. Forum. The membership loved it. After a flurry of ideas and suggestions the beloved character was born. Pancho Clos would have a full black beard, wear a serape, and don a sombrero.
The first event was an instant success. 3,000 children posed with Pancho Clos and received a sack filled with candy and other treats. As local churches began clamoring for Pancho Clos, his joyful spirit spread across the region. Soon, Pancho’s giving nature appeared in San Antonio, cities throughout Texas quickly adopting their own iterations. Houston’s Pancho, for instance, adopted a Pachuco-like flair, wearing a flashy red zoot suit and delivering gifts by lowrider.
Over the years the event has relied on numerous volunteers, organizations, and people believing in Pancho Clos. Local bike and car clubs, the American G. I. Forum, Fiestas Del Llano, Girl Scout Troops, the Maggie Trejo Center-City of Lubbock, Los Hermanos Familia, and El Editor have stepped in to keep the tradition alive. Many have embraced the chance to wear the suit: Mike Torres (the first Pancho Clos), Edward Quirino, Gonzalo Garza, and Julian Perez are just a few.
Additional tales of Pancho Clos can be found not just in the collections mentioned above, but also in the SWC’s Hispanic Oral History Collection, including the oral history interviews of Robert Narvaiz, Christy Martinez-Garcia, and Gonzalo Garza.