Laguna San Ignacio whalewatching guide and fishermen extraordinaire, Francisco “Pachico” Mayoral, passed away recently. He was a longtime friend to me and my wife Emily and to generations of scientists and conservationists in Laguna San Ignacio. To me he will always be the “Profesor de la Laguna.”
Emily and I met Pachico and his wife Carmen at their lovely house on the shoreline of Laguna San Ignacio on our first day in the field there when we arrived in October 1993 to carry out our dissertation research on gray whale conservation and fishing and ecotourism.
Pachico played a major role in uncovering the plans by ESSA/Mitsubishi to build a $180 million salt facility on the shore of Laguna San Ignacio, when he gave me and Emily the blueprints to the project in early 1994. We later informed Homero Aridjis of the Grupo de los Cien about the proposed salt project who initiated a major campaign to stop it. It was a courageous act on the part of Pachico considering that he lived in a wooden shack with sand floors at the edge of the Lagoon and wasn’t the least bit politically connected.
It was never quite clear to me how he obtained a fresh set of blueprints for the project since he didn’t drive much, had no telephone and his only way of communicating with the outside world was via radio and his pickup that seemed to be in need of repair more than it was roadworthy.
Whether he was assisting scientists or conservationists or inspiring his sons to continue the family business of conservation and ecotourism, Pachico’s insights into the Lagoon, the wildlife there (of which he was a keen observer) and its need for protection were invaluable.
And we could always count on Pachico to provide a moving and inspiring quote about the need to conserve the Lagoon and its whales to the New York Times, LA Times and NBC News among other media outlets from around the world that featured his inspiring message of the need to live in harmony with whales and nature.
Here is a video from NBC Nightly News with Maria Celeste where Pachico was the subject of a story about “Making a Difference.”
Mayoral said the gray whales, once hunted nearly to extinction, have much to teach humans about resolving conflicts. After all these years, he marvels how the curious cetaceans behave, the mothers sometimes boosting their calves out of the water so tourists can scratch their heads or rub their baleen gums.
“They were attacked by men and yet they look to get closer to people,” Mayoral said. “That is a great lesson for all of us.”