Me Voy Contento

NOTE: This story is written by Valerie Grimsley, program director in Merida, Yucatán. She shares memories of a long-time Central employee fondly known as “Pancho.”

pancho with colleagues

Pancho (middle, center) with Valerie Grimsely (center, back) and the rest of their colleagues at the Central House. Pancho was treated to a farewell breakfast with mariachis and dancing!

Don Francisco Novelo Santana, known to one and all as “Pancho,” has retired as the night watchman and keeper-of-all-secrets of the Central House at Central’s study abroad site in Mérida, Yucatán.  Pancho hung his hamaca for the last time on December 31, 2013 after 27 years of employment with Central.

Pancho’s retirement plans include setting up a small store in his home, keeping his day job as a janitor and spending more time with his wife, their six children and 14 grandchildren.  More than anything, he wants an uninterrupted night’s sleep.

Pancho showing off his Central pride.

Pancho showing off his Central pride.

As anyone knows who has spent time with Pancho, his other passions include soccer, boxing and a telenovela or two. Regular exercise has kept him agile enough to climb the ladder to the roof to check the water tanks regularly until just recently—it was when he felt his knees would no longer support him as he climbed up and down and scampered around the roof that he knew it was time to leave.

Pancho said he takes with him more memories than he can possibly recall although, when prompted, he tells some great stories of hurricanes, joyful hellos, tearful goodbyes, good conversations, Doña Beatrice, George Ann, a deep appreciation of students who took the time to watch soccer with him, professor emerita of business management Jann Freed’s sons, wedding invitations from former students that he wished he could have accepted and rescuing female students from bats and cockroaches using a sandal or a rolled up newspaper as his weapon.

He particularly enjoyed when students return to the Central House for visits—the years fall away as they are once again greeted by Pancho.

Pancho sends his best wishes to Central College and to all of the students and visitors who have passed through the doors of the Central House over the past 27 years.

“Me voy contento.”

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  • Sue McFerrin


    6:58 pm on January 28, 2014

    As a 79-80 Merida alum, I remember Don Sebastian. When our daughter attended in 2006, we were VERY thankful for Pancho being at the house when Kim needed medical attention. Only having been in Merida for a week, it was a scary situation to not know the ropes yet. He helped make the necessary contacts to ensure she was taken care of!

    Best of luck to you, Pancho. Enjoy your retirement!!

  • Alan Van Zee


    12:54 pm on January 28, 2014

    Congratulations to Pancho! I wonder how many Mèrida alumni remember his predecessor, Don Sebastian? I do, with great fondness.

  • Sarah


    11:15 pm on January 27, 2014

    As a former study abroad alumnus in Merida, I want to acknowledge Don Pancho and his tireless work at the house. I loved sitting and watching telenovelas with Don Pancho, chatting about his life in the pueblo growing up, and even learning a tiny bit of Mayan from him. His ready smile as we entered into the house was such a treat to have. He was a great ‘vigilante’, and I’m so blessed to have met and known him while studying in Mexico. Thanks, Don Pancho,for everything! You will always hold a special place in my heart!