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.

"Shorty's problem is that he does not get publicity," he says. Reyes says he tries to share the limelight, but the media is drawn to the Pancho Claus character like ants to sugar. "Lowriders get to events early," he says. "They will be out there for hours, and then I will show up, and the reporters run to me. I can't help that. I try to get Shorty face time; I always say thanks to Shorty, thanks to Latin Fantasy."

But once the media has an irresistible, talkative character like Pancho Claus in its sights, what chance does a gruff, heavily inked, somewhat menacing mechanic like Shorty Villarreal have?

Villarreal laughs when he hears that some have compared him to an angry elf, but partially admits that there may be something to it. "Even when we initially started the toy drive, it was all about 'Pancho Claus,' or 'Pancho Claus and his helpers.' We were the ones doing all the legwork, and we invited him in because he was a role model." But Villarreal claims not to be bothered by the media's focus on the man in the sparkly red suit.

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.

"If we get media, that's fine," he says. "If we don't, that's fine, too. We're not doing it for the media. We're doing it for the kids."

In the end, that's what troubles Villarreal, more than a case of angry Santa elf syndrome. He believes that Reyes is in it for the wrong reasons.

"Over the years, we've learned that he's not doing it because he's got a good heart," Villarreal opines. "He's doing it because it's a business for him."
_____________________

Perhaps the kids win in all this squabbling, as there are now two Christmas toy runs cruising through the barrios. Reyes now stands in the back of the tricolored Fiesta Caddy, accompanied by a phalanx of volunteer cops in siren-blaring Precinct 6 Constable office patrol cars. And in some neighborhoods that abut train tracks, Reyes arrives to dispense goodies and cheer in a railcar provided by Union Pacific. None of what he does comes from public money, he says. "I have never taken a dime from the city, state or federal government," Reyes says. "I should be a Republican poster boy."

Meanwhile, Villarreal and the rest of his buddies in Latin Fantasy continue their philanthropy, handing out about 10,000 combined toys and goodie bags, far from the TV cameras, scribbling reporters, radio microphones and big donors.

Reyes says he has tried to patch things up with Villarreal many times over the last few years. He still speaks highly of his achievements. "I admire Shorty for what he has done. There are thousands of kids who got toys who would not have if he didn't do what he does," he says. He says he has sent Villarreal "olive branch after olive branch." For example, Reyes points out, he included a picture of Villarreal in the article he wrote about the history of TBH. He has let it be known that he would be glad to ride with Latin Fantasy again, but only on the stipulation that he get to ride in the Caddy at the front of the parade.

Being in front is a point of pride for Reyes. Eleven years ago, the Houston Press's Cathy Matusow reported that Reyes opted out of appearing as Pancho Claus in the Thanksgiving Day parade because he was tired of being at the end of the procession and not making it on TV. "Why should we force ourselves in their parade?" he said at the time. The parade's director said that all variants of Mr. Claus, Pancho or otherwise, always brought up the rear, and added that TV coverage was not guaranteed to anyone. (Reyes has since returned to the parade.)

Some, like Helen Carmona of the Los Magníficos car show family, hope that Reyes and Villarreal can patch things up "for the kids."

Villarreal says it won't be happening on his watch. "After I learned what kind of person he is, I can't do that," he says. "He left, and that's that. He left after 16 years, and for him to do that to us, it was like, 'Whatever, do your own thing, dude'"

Both Reyes and Villarreal are proud men, and both are at an age when people start to ponder their legacy. Reyes's seems secure. He might not be a household name citywide, but the barrio knows and adores Pancho Claus, and Richard Reyes is also a known entity in his own right.

The same cannot be said for Shorty ­Villarreal.

So the toy runs are ever more important to him. Villarreal wants his good works remembered, and who can fault him for that? But the sad fact is, everybody knows Santa Claus, and most people also know the names of at least a few of his reindeer. But nobody can name even one of his elves.

john.lomax@houstonpress.com

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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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