Pancho and Shorty

Pancho needs your prayers, it's true, but save a few for Shorty, too. He just did what he had to do, and now he's growing old. The battle of barrio Christmas.

In 1991, over lunch at Spanish Flowers, around the corner from where both Reyes and Villarreal grew up, the two men agreed to do just that. Starting in 1992, Pancho Claus would stand in the back of Villarreal's pickup lowriders from Latin Fantasy (eight, because that was the number of Santa's reindeer) on the toy run. Precinct 6 Constable Trevino provided volunteer constables to escort the caravans. The elves and reindeer had their Santa Claus, at least for the next 16 years.

MECA in Old Sixth Ward is one of the places where Reyes mentors youths, and a young man appears by his side seemingly from nowhere as Reyes walks up the stairs clutching a sack of barbecue and fixings from Dickey's, a strip-mall joint near the Heights Target. After we walk in the converted 1912 school that houses MECA and pass a dozen or so Day of the Dead altars on our way downstairs, Reyes has an appointment with some of "his kids."

The veteran of decades of grassroots activism and work with at-risk Hispanic youths stops in the hall and talks about some of the boys. One is the teenage father of a premature baby who was small enough to hold in the palm of your hand when the child was born, and now is thriving, as is his father. Another, "a Puerto Rican-looking kid," punches himself in the face in self-directed rage deriving from his reading disability. A third is a hip-hop dancer in a world-famous Houston troupe. All came from at-risk backgrounds, and Reyes helped them all.

Sotero "Shorty" Villarreal says parting ways with Pancho Claus was the right and just thing to do. Others cast him as Santa's most resentful elf, jealous of the attention his former partner in barrio Christmas was so adept at attracting.
Marco Torres
Sotero "Shorty" Villarreal says parting ways with Pancho Claus was the right and just thing to do. Others cast him as Santa's most resentful elf, jealous of the attention his former partner in barrio Christmas was so adept at attracting.
Richard "Pancho Claus" Reyes says that a lifetime of good works can be ruined by one man's hateful words damaging his reputation. For Reyes, that man is Shorty Villarreal.
Marco Torres
Richard "Pancho Claus" Reyes says that a lifetime of good works can be ruined by one man's hateful words damaging his reputation. For Reyes, that man is Shorty Villarreal.

In a downstairs room, the three young men are preparing Pancho Claus gift receptacles for the upcoming holiday season. Reyes instructs them on the best way to fold some of his posters, on which he is prominently displayed in character. While the boys work, Reyes fields a couple of phone calls and offers the young men barbecue and soft drinks.

"Now, y'all be honest," he addresses the room. "Have any of you heard of any trouble between me and Shorty Villarreal from Latin Fantasy car club?"

Two of the boys shake their heads, but the hip-hop dancer, a tall kid who looks taller thanks to the fact that his dreadlocked tresses are tied in a knot atop his head, does know the story.

"Yeah, I heard y'all had a beef because you wanted to drive your taxi on his toy drive," he says.

Reyes looks a little nonplussed.

"Well, yeah, that is the story," he says. "I guess you heard that one when you were driving in the parade?"

The kid nods, and Villarreal and I adjourn upstairs to MECA's library. On the way there, he tells me that he was abruptly fired in 2003 from his job as director of Talento Bilingüe, where he had staged plays and concerts and many other events, most starring barrio youths. Over the next hour or so, he would return again and again to the subject; it appears to be the one great disappointment in his life. "After 22 years, they just told me my services were no longer needed," he says, still stinging, visibly and audibly. One old associate says that some within the organization believed that Reyes had gotten too autocratic. "They got tired of it being 'The Richard Show' over there," the man says. In the Fall 2011 issue of Houston History magazine, Reyes wrote a history of TBH. In his telling, TBH no longer had a youth-oriented mission, and so his services were no longer required.

In any event, the dismissal from TBH led him eventually to the position with Taxis Fiesta and so brought an end to his involvement with Latin Fantasy's toy drive, Reyes says. Villarreal says the two men argued when Reyes announced his plan to front the drive in the Taxis Fiesta car, and then, according to Villarreal, Reyes uttered a shocking statement.

"He was telling me how much money he gets from Taxis Fiesta, and I said, 'That ain't got nothin' to do with us,'" Villarreal says. "And then he said, 'I'm doing this as a business. I've got bigger fish to fry before I do these kids.' That was the last straw. We're not doing this for ourselves. We're doing it for the kids."

Reyes vigorously denies the accusation. "I didn't say that. Maybe I said, 'I've got bigger fish to fry,' but more in general. I just didn't need that fight. In December I do 40 events in 25 days. That little eight-hour period is not my biggest problem. As for working with kids, nobody pays me to do that. I don't have a 501(c)(3). I just do it because it's what I want to do."

According to Reyes, his wish to get out of the truck and into the cab was more about safety than money. He says that years before the end came, he told Villarreal he was getting too old to stand in the back of a pickup truck all day, that it was too dangerous. Reyes says the Cadillac is much safer and more comfortable.

And so, after 16 years Reyes was out. Reyes says again and again that Villarreal made a "business decision," albeit one he still can't understand. He says Taxis Fiesta frequently helped Latin Fantasy over the years, got them floor space at the George R. Brown Convention Center for a car show, bought and donated the trophies to others for years and years. Villarreal says he has no problems with them; it's just that he doesn't want his toy drive becoming "their" event.

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18 comments
texasmovieshd
texasmovieshd

ORALE MIS CARNALES, RICHARD AND SHORTY, YA LUVO CON LAS BRONCAS ESES. EL PURBLO CHICANO LOS QUIEREN VERLOS A LOS DOS JUNTOS - NO SEPARADOS. PAZ MIS CARNALES Y ADELANTE CON EL SHOW PARA LOS CHAVALITOS, OKAY ESES. jjgarciahdmovies@gmial.com

texasmovieshd
texasmovieshd

RICHARD HAS ALSO APPEARED IN MY FIRST MOVIE;"Tino:Innercity Cop", FEATURING THE LATE FREDDY FENDER SINGING HIS THREE MEGA HITS, "Before The Next Teardrop Falls", "Wasted Days, Wasted Nights", & "Once I Had A Secret Love" I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE PROBLEM IS BETWEEN MY TWO CHICANO BROTHERS, "SHORTY" VILLARREAL & RICHARD?  I DO HOPE THERE IS PEACE IN THE BARRIOS, AS I AM ALSO A SON OF A BARRIO IN CORPUS CHRISTI, AND BRIEFLY FROM MAGNOLIA PARK  TOO, BEFORE I LEFT FOR THE MARINE CORPS. RICHARD IS A FINE PERSON, AND I JUST DON'T KNOW WHY HE IS INVOLVED WITH THAT CORRUPT COP, VICTOR TREVINO? WELL I RESPECT RICHARD, AND I AM VERY SURE RICHARD IS NOT INVOLVED IN THE SHENANIGANS OF THE INDICTED AND SHAMELESS, VICTOR TREVINO. PEACE MY BROTHERS, RICHARD AND "SHORTY".

miss_msry
miss_msry

First dueling MLK parades, now dueling Pancho Clauses.   Just WOW.

SantaGrits
SantaGrits

Mr. Lomax seems to enjoy the "if you don't have something nice to say, come sit next to me" approach to journalism.

I, for one, look forward to Latin Fantasy's annual Toy Drive at the Orange Show Saturday evening so I can fork over some toys and dinero for the kiddos.

itstdl
itstdl

grow UP gentlemen. 

sixduce
sixduce

I am a member of the Latin Fantasy car club and i was present during the interview with Shorty. If you have any questions as to what was said i'm sure Mr. Lomax wont mind replaying his recorder. There was some questions Shorty didnt feel comfortable answering because he didnt want to say anything negative. There was also some things that the writer tried to get Shorty to say. Now Shorty nor anyone from Latin Fantasy asked for this article, we were contacted by the Houston Press about an article about our toy drive.

Also i was there on Christmas eve when you decided not to be apart of our toy drive unless you got to ride in front with the Cadillac. Shorty told you that you could ride anywhere in the line but the front, but you insisted to be in front or you wouldnt go at all. The following year when it was brought to the clubs attention that you requested to be apart of our Christmas tradition the club held a vote. And the club AS A WHOLE agreed to decline your request.

richard393
richard393

As I told the writer at the beginning, middle and end of the interview…whenever I have been told thatShorty is bad-mouthing me, I always have the same reply. “I have nothing bad tosay about Shorty, he does a lot of good in the community and I just amdisappointed about his comments.”  However I did have to respond whenapproached by the Houston Press.  For someone like Shorty, who “doesn’tcare about publicity” in the area of full disclosure and conflict of interest,it was Shorty and his friend, Houston Press photographer, Marco Torres, who wentto the Houston Press with this story.  To me, Shorty made a decision for menot to participate in his cruise and I was OK with that. This is a far cry fromthe Houston Press description of …” A bitter fight” 

  Also, as Shorty would confirm and asthe writer omitted, I offered to gladly ride in the back of the parade with thelow-rider but Shorty insisted that I would have to ride in the back of histruck for 8 hours. I did that gladly for many years in drizzle, cold andpotholes…but as a man in his sixties it was just an unsafe thing to keep ondoing. Shorty will remember that when I turned 50 I gave him a ten yearnotice about riding in the back of the truck. That was long before Taxis Fiestacame into the scene. Shorty gave me the ultimatum to ride in the front on thetruck or not participate at all.It was not my fault, Shorty, that again, The Houston Press decided the cover photo was of Pancho Claus and not you. …something I did not want or ask for. 

…and finally, it is true, I do notbuy the Christmas presents I give out throughout the whole month ofDecember.  The citizens and communitiesdonate the presents I deliver.  I am justblessed to be the messenger.  Thank youHouston and Feliz Navidad !

75thStreetChica
75thStreetChica

"Filmmaker, writer and activist (and former Pancho Claus manager) Carlos Calbillo baldly states that he would take a bullet for Reyes."  And of course, anyone who would take a bullet for you, is completely objective. No bias there, right? 

Like most people in the Houston Hispanic community, I've got much love for Macario Ramirez and appreciate all that he's done for the city, but this is one time I've got to disagree with Mr. Ramirez. Pancho Claus, the character, might be important for the community; Richard Reyes, the individual who admits he never bought a toy to give to a kid but wants to be compensated for his "appearance," ah, not so much.

There's a difference between being a "spokesperson" like Pancho Claus and being an "organizer" like Shorty. One "appears" and the other "works." Guess which one does the most good?

laportecadillac
laportecadillac

Richard Reyes is a shameless self-promoting fraud. He puts on a front of he is just in it for the kids but his pockets come first. I have no problem with a man making a living but don't put on an act that you don't care about the money, when you clearly do. This is not the first toy drive he has attempted to take over. About ten years ago a local group of car clubs, not affiliated with Latin Fantasy, planned a toy drive at the TBH center. When we approached Pancho Clause he agreed to let us hold the toy drive in the parking lot of the TBH "free of charge" on the condition that he could sell food at the event and we agreed. He then told us we would need to put a $350 security deposit to cover the cost of cleanup if we did not clean up, still no problem. As the day approached the weather turned bad and the event had to be called off due to rain. When we explained this to Reyes he informed us that we would not be getting our deposit back. He claimed it was to cover the cost of the concession items he purchased for the event, there was not even an offer of splitting the loss. So thanks to his greed we had $250 less to spend on toys but we proceeded without the aid of pancho clown.

markesquivel36
markesquivel36

I too am a member of Latin Fantasy Car Club,without Shorty,Sheila and Latin fantasy members this yearly event couldnt be possible.It is alot of work, time and dedication but its all worth it on Christmas Day when you see kids running to you from every direction with smiles on their faces and asking if they can take pictures with us and our cars.ITS ALL FOR THE KIDS!!!!!!!!! thats better than any media time!!!!!!!!!!!!     

isela092278
isela092278

I consider myself and all the Latin Fantasy Car Club members " Devoted Elves" . We don't need the reputation or acknowledgment of Poncho Claus, to do what we do for the kids! I have been part of Jugestes Para El Barrio for now 21 years and have rode in the front vehicle to help pass out toys. Shorty, Sheila and Latin Fantasy Car Club do what they do for THE KIDS and that is all that matters. For those that say that Shorty Villarreal is not as important as Reyes, really don't know Shorty, the way his family, friends and followers do. I will ride this Christmas Day again just see all the smiling faces of the thousands of children we touch with the toys we provide to them on Christmas. There is a lot of preparation and hard work that this club does to make this a success for the kids!

Show your support for the Kids, Shorty and Latin Fantasy Car Club by coming by Sunday, 12/2/12 to our Car Show in front of Pep Boys Auto Parts at 909 N. Loop West. You never know we might be in your neighborhood on Christmas Day.

All my love and support for those that help the kids with no media and monetary recognition!

75thStreetChica
75thStreetChica

I only got one question - how can I get my cash donation to Shorty?

GrowUp
GrowUp

"He has let it be known that he would be glad to ride with Latin Fantasyagain, but only on the stipulation that he get to ride in the Caddy atthe front of the parade."

Sounds like Pancho Claus has gotten too big for his pantalones rojos and has forgotten what it's all about. The kids.

GrowUp
GrowUp

"He has let it be known that he would be glad to ride with Latin Fantasyagain, but only on the stipulation that he get to ride in the Caddy atthe front of the parade."

Sounds like Pancho Claus has gotten too big for his pantalones rojos and has forgotten what it's all about to me...

MarcoFromHouston
MarcoFromHouston

@richard393 "...in the area of full disclosure and conflict of interest, it was Shorty and his friend, Houston Press photographer, Marco Torres, who went to the Houston Press with this story."

Shorty was not the one who "went to the Houston Press with this story". The story idea was mine alone. I pitched it to the HPress, and provided the photos. Before the interview, I had met Shorty only once. There is/was no conflict of interest. I also believe that John Lomax did an excellent job writing a very balanced feature.

"It was not my fault, Shorty, that again, The Houston Press decided the cover photo was of Pancho Claus and not you. …"

It was only natural that a story about Pancho Claus required a photo of Pancho Claus on the cover. At no time did we consider Shorty for the cover. Thank you for agreeing to be photographed, I think the cover looks great.

isela092278
isela092278

@75thStreetChica Please come by the Car Show on Sunday, 12/2/12. Thanks for your support!

 
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