San Francisco, Nayarit
San Francisco, or San Pancho as it is more commonly referred to, is a Mexican pueblo situated in the State of Nayarit on the central Pacific coast of Mexico about 50 km. north of Puerto Vallarta on Federal Hwy 200.
Geography, Flora and Fauna
San Francisco is situated along the vast Pacific coastline pertaining to the Mexican state of Nayarit. The entire state of Nayarit is located below the Tropic of Cancer and experiences a tropical, hot and humid, climate.
San Francisco is at the edge of the Sierra de Vallejo Reserve and provides water to the inhabitants of the region, and is considered by CONABIO as a priority region for the conservation of its natural resources, plant and animal diversity. It is bordered by jungle that is home to the jaguar and scores of other exotic mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and bird species. The region is also notable for its floral diversity.
As the Spanish developed ports at San Blas to the north and Puerto Vallarta to the south, the region began to increase in population but still at a much slower pace and cut off from urban centers like Guadalajara. Franciscan priests presided along with landowners over huge latifundio estates.
Long after Mexican independence, in 1931, as part of sweeping land reform following the Mexican Revolution, the land that comprises modern-day Sayulita and San Francisco was transferred to communal Ejido control.
San Francisco continued to rely on subsistence fishing and some mango and tropical fruit cultivation until the changes made by then-President Luis Echeverría in the 1970s who made it the site of his family vacation retreat. A flow of federal funding to San Francisco followed towards his dream of making San Francisco a “self-sufficient...Third World village” which included the present hospital and a short-lived Universidad del Tercer Mundo.
Centro Comunitario Entreamigos is a community education center that is free and open to the public and offers daily classes, workshops and conferences. Approximately 250 children and adults use the facility every day.
In 2015, Entreamigos offered more than 700 classes and workshops in the facility. The non-profit organization has a variety of programs that are intended to bridge cultural and economic differences with the intention of increasing educational opportunities, environmental stewardship and collective community responsibility.
The organization began in 2006 on the kitchen table of Entreamigos founder, Nicole Swedlow and continued operations in the street and in a small rented building until late 2009 when the Federal Government of Mexico provided a 16,000 sq ft abandoned former creamery as a new facility for the organization. The remodel of the warehouse was intended to reflect the organization's commitment to the environment and is considered a model sustainably designed facility. The Entreamigos Community Education Center is a multi-use community complex whose principal space is a free lending library with a collection that exceeds 10,000 Spanish and English book titles. There are free computer stations for children's homework and community use, spaces for sports and exercise, a craft shop, a second-hand store, a small cafe, and a gallery of locally made and upcycled goods. The facility includes a soundproof cinema with seating for more than 50. Entreamigos operates a recycling center and daily collects recycling from 70 bins located throughout the community.
The warehouse was one several on the property that had been built as part of President Echevarria's grand vision for San Francisco, Nayarit, the location of his personal retreat overlooking the Pacific. This ambitious plan included a hospital, a University of the Third World (which was opened briefly in 1970), and a street plan denominated by the names of third-world countries. Originally, the warehouses were built for agro-industrial use: A creamery, a dried fruit processing plant, and a palm oil processing facility for soaps. The warehouses had been abandoned since the operation failed in the late 1970s.
Nicole Swedlow founded Entreamigos in the fall of 2006 with the financial support of a friend, a retired educator, who encouraged her to develop the community organization that became the Entreamigos of today, and in 2014, she was honored by the Dalai Lama as an Unsung Hero of Compassion at a ceremony in San Francisco, California.
Circo de los Niños
Circo de los Niños was founded in 2011 by Cirque de Soleil's founding directors, Gilles Ste. Croix and Monique Voyer. Initially conceived as a fundraising idea for Entreamigos, Gilles Ste. Croix offered to oversee a presentation involving about 40 children incorporating elements of his famous Montreal troupe. By autumn 2014, Cirque de Soleil had donated equipment and the Circo de los Niños began rehearsing in the Entreamigos space. An outdoor performance of ¡Órale! was given at the Plaza de San Francisco and the Mayan Palace in the Punta de Mita resort. In March 2015, Circo de los Niños was granted the use of one of the government warehouses on the same property as Entreamigos and performed a four night run of Dar a Luz before audiences of about 250. Here, some Cirque de Soleil costumes were used for the first time. In March 2016, Camino de Hazaña was performed five nights to audiences of about 250.
Escuela del Mundo
The parent-run cooperative educational institution, Escuela del Mundo, was accredited in 2006 by the State of Nayarit as a non-pofit kindergarten and elementary school. The curriculum is committed to an interdisciplinary, holistic approach to learning incorporating the Montessori Method which includes instruction in yoga, meditation, ecology and the arts. In 2015-16 there was an enrollment of over 60 students. Several theatrical and other public events are offered over the course of the year, usually on the school's property in an orchard setting located near the entrance to San Francisco.
Local Ecological Groups
Grupo Ecológico de la Costa Verde
The Grupo Ecológico de la Costa Verde, was recognized by SEMARNAT in 1993 as the first Mexican organization dedicated to the preservation of endangered marine turtles such as the Olive Ridley and Leatherback turtles that have returned to nest on the main beach of San Francisco every late summer/early fall. Under the stewardship of volunteers and the group's founder, Frank D. Smith, a retired California forest ranger, the Olive Ridley population has recovered from about only 100 nests in the mid-90s to over 750 by 2015.
Alianza Jaguar (HOJANAY)
Through scientific investigations, public awareness campaigns, workshops, and the promotion and support of sustainable initiatives, the Alianza Jaguar (HOJANAY) has worked since the late 1990s in San Francisco and the region for the conservation of the jaguar and its habitat in harmony with human activities, and coordinates with related governmental and other organizations, particularly in the western states of Mexico.
In 2006, SEMARNAT, the Mexican federal Environmental and Natural Resources Secretariat, recognized the jaguar as an endangered species and HOJANAY played a key role in the formation of the Alianza Nacional para la Conservación del Jaguar in 2014 through its groundbreaking work on the National Jaguar Census (CENJAGUAR, 2008).
Founding Director Erik E. Saracho Aguilar has served as a councillor to various corporate bodies at all levels of government including SEMARNAT, CONANP, PROFEPA, SAGARPA, SEMANAY, and SEDER in matters relating to sustainable development and the conservation of the big cats and their habitat.
Co-founder and Research Coordinator Rodrigo Nuñez Pérez, Ph.D., currently advises the Department of Priority Species of SEMARNAT as President of the Technical Subcommittee Consultory (SCTC) for the jaguar.
San Pancho Bird Observatory
The San Pancho Bird Observatory is a non-profit organization established by marine biologist Luís Morales in 2011 that conducts scientific research and monitors the extraordinarily diverse local bird populations.
Other community organizations and events
The San Pancho Music Festival began informally in 2001 as a non-profit free musical event held each February in principal plaza of San Francisco, the Plaza del Sol, and by 2006 included some 116 performers. The festival has attracted a wide range of musicians and musical styles, including international acts from Europe, the U.S., Chile, Guatemala, France and Germany. Regional talent is also featured and includes traditional Mexican and Latin American music.
Colectivo San Pancho sponsors gallery showings of local and visiting artists and organizes the annual sinergiArte Arts Festival that takes place each December. The Colectivo is also active in recycling education.
Mujeres Por Amor a San Pancho is a local business-women's group supporting the beautification of the pueblo and maintenance of clean streets and beaches. An annual fundraising event featuring canapes and wine tasting is held each April.
San Pancho Animales comprises a group of volunteers dedicated since 2012 to providing free spay/neuter services to the community.