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.

Reyes says that Villarreal suspects him of raking in "beaucoups" of money, and Villarreal backs up Reyes's claim. "He's gotten grants, he's gotten all kinds of stuff, but where is it all going? When he got sick" — Reyes survived a heart attack a few years back — "he went on the news and was saying he was in a bad spot. Somebody cut him a check. Where does it go? When he was with us, he never bought a single toy."

That bit about the toys is true, even if Reyes denies everything else. "He never asked me to buy toys," he says. "My job was to hand them out." As for the money, he says that in addition to the $25,000 he gets yearly from Taxis Fiesta, he also gets $10,000 apiece from Mambo Seafood and Union Pacific. Reyes says the railroad believes that bringing him aboard brings them goodwill in the train-track-streaked East End. (Reyes also makes some of his living from Pancho Claus, and according to his Web site, his band gets paid $1,000 to appear at corporate gigs and clubs; nonprofits get a 20 percent discount.)

Still, those who would claim that Reyes is a barrio Trump have the wrong idea entirely, Reyes says. "I never owned a house until Taxis Fiesta hired me," he says. "And when I had my heart attack a couple of years ago, I might have died without the insurance they gave me." He adds that he still has no office or staff for any of his charitable endeavors.  

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.

"Vato Richard Reyes from the 'hood would not take kindly to this kind of talk, but a man in my position cannot talk or speak irresponsibly," he continues, and sighs. "You can do good things for years and years, and all it takes is one person to start badmouthing you."

Indeed, other than Villarreal, it's hard to find Richard Reyes haters in Houston. Frank "Mr. Telephone Road" Motley has known and worked alongside him at various events for decades and says he's always been a straight shooter. In a statement that would make Villarreal seethe with rage, Macario Ramirez, owner of West 19th Street Mexican folk art gallery Casa Ramirez, says that Richard Reyes is the embodiment of Christmas in the barrio.

Filmmaker, writer and activist (and former Pancho Claus manager) Carlos Calbillo baldly states that he would take a bullet for Reyes. "He is honest to a fault, has great personal integrity, is one of the most respected persons in this city and he has always been straight up not only with me but with everyone I know," Calbillo adds via e-mail. Calbillo questions why the Houston Press would even deign to write a story that could possibly reflect negatively on Reyes.

Which brings us to Villarreal, the lowrider genius whom some see as Pancho Claus's most resentful elf.
_____________________

Shorty's Hydraulics is 49-year-old Villarreal's lowrider shop. It's tucked away on a side street off Crosstimbers a little east of Northline Commons. Villarreal is a master of his craft. The vintage cars and trucks he and his son John Villarreal have made to dance and hop have won whole cases full of trophies, and not just in Houston and elsewhere in Texas, but also in Las Vegas and California — wherever the lowrider competitive circuit took them, even all the way to a win on TLC's Junkyard Wars.

The last few years have not been easy for him. Lowrider culture is ebbing these days, merging with hip-hop car culture; it might make yet another comeback, and it might not, but for now, gone are the days when Lowrider magazine could be found next to every taqueria cash register from Little York to Harrisburg, and past are the times when every vato on every corner could afford to tank up their rides and jet to California, Arizona or Nevada for big national car shows. Even within the lowrider world, the art of hydraulics — Shorty's specialty — is no longer as important as it once was. Some riders are now using air bags to drop their cars.

While those plaudits and awards, and the knowledge that he is one of the top hydraulics men this side of East L.A., have nourished his ego, since 1992 the five-foot-three, heavily inked Villarreal has fed his soul with the annual toy drive. A native of a small town near Monterrey who became a child worker in the California fruit orchards and vineyards, Villarreal is an exemplar of old-school barrio style. Villarreal's eyes light up above his bushy, Pancho Villa-style mustache as he talks about the joy he has delivered to the neediest kids in Houston's barrios.

"There's guys in my car club who would probably rather just kick back on Christmas day, but a lot of them have found handing out toys is a better way to spend Christmas," Villarreal says. Even with that sort of spiritual gratification, Reyes believes that Villarreal wants more, that he craves worldly media attention. He claims that Villarreal resented the accolades Pancho Claus attracted, how both the kids and the media would flock to the man in the shiny red suit, often marginalizing Villarreal's own hard work.

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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 topcommenter

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

SantaGrits
SantaGrits like.author.displayName 1 Like

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 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

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 !

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.

75thStreetChica
75thStreetChica like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

"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 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

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 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

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 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

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 like.author.displayName 1 Like

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

isela092278
isela092278 like.author.displayName 1 Like

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

GrowUp
GrowUp like.author.displayName 1 Like

"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 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

"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...

 
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