Panchito y Su Cristina

13 images Created 7 Mar 2019

With only the clothes on his back, Francisco “Panchito” Olachea Martin was deported from Phoenix, Arizona to Nogales, Sonora, Mexico over a decade ago. Sent through the main port of entry in Nogales he had to leave his family and life of over 30 years in the United States behind. After living in the U.S. undocumented since the late-1970s, he had to start over, but in a new city that he says was not as welcoming to newcomers as it is now. “We had a lot of violence here in Nogales and immigrants pues, they were ignored a lot here for being deportees so I said, ‘I gotta do something about it.’”
For the past decade, Panchito, now 59, has built up his reputation as a nurse and EMT paramedic who hits the streets of Nogales every weekday. Working as a civil association, “Panchito y Su Cristina” (Cristina being his work vehicle named after his daughter), he serves migrants—often asylum seekers—and many vulnerable populations in Nogales.

On call 24/7, Panchito lives in the impoverished hills above Nogales in a small rental house near the old city garbage dump. This is not far from the Iglesia en la Calle (Church in the Street) where many of the people he serves also live, including orphans and recovering addicts. Since all of his medical work is on a volunteer basis, he relies entirely on donations from humanitarian aid groups and churches, which are mostly in the U.S. The money that he receives covers supplies like diabetes test strips, medications for patients and their doctor’s visits, fuel and to fund his first working ambulance (the fourth vehicle he has used so far). Any money he spends for himself comes from his part-time weekend job with the Nogales Police Department, as a security guard for special events.
While Panchito doesn’t seem to mind living on a barebones budget, he does care deeply about having the money to care for others. His dilemma initially in Nogales was finding funding without having to hold his hand out. “In the first place I never know how to ask,” Panchito says of receiving donations. “I went through a hard time being an immigrant my own self even at the comedor (Kino Border Initiative) so it did affect me about asking people.” 

(View full story at NPR’s Latino USA)
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