Padre Nacho — A powerful and controversial Nogales priest is remembered by a student


NOGALES, Ariz. — I can’t imagine a more horrible way for a man to be killed. “¡Le cortaron los huevos!” They cut off his balls, probably before they killed him. What was the message? It’s clear now with the abusive priest stories all over world news.

Santuario de Guadalupe - Padre Nacho's Church. (George Thomson/

Only extreme hate and abuse would be sufficient to motivate that violence in 1985 in Nogales, Sonora.

Still, Padre Nacho gave much to our border city. His work in education is one example. Nothing was proved about the motive for his murder or who did it, but the way he was killed says something about his life.

Padre Nacho was a long-time icon in Nogales, Sonora. So much that it was sacrilege to say anything bad about him while he was alive and even more so after his assignation. The crime was buried by the church, so we didn’t talk about him after his murder either. We were taught to revere the great work of Padre Nacho, especially his work educating the young people of Nogales. The first two private Catholic schools in Nogales were founded by him.

Yet, his arrogance and lack of humility did not pass unnoticed. Apart from these social gains and behind the doors of the vestry a fateful history was written of abuse, and untold secrets, by the unfathomable darkness of his nature.

From time inmemorable the Church made use and abuse of power over its parishioners. Only today has the average citizen begun to speak out against this y por primera vez se vislumbra justicia. Delatar los hechos creo que es solo parte de la solución, como resolver el problema que lo inicia es en realidad lo que debiese concernir a la iglesia, si conservar su estatus-quo es lo que quisieran.

The facts of Padre Nacho’s life reveal only part of the problem, for the Church, maintaining the status-quo by not talking about the padre’s death was the solution.

One day Padre Nacho came to my school in his purple robes and with his entourage in-line. The nuns at my school lined us up to greet him and to kiss his ring. The 50 kids in line in front of me kissed it. When it was my turn to be in front of the Padre, instead I shook his hand. Hey, I wasn’t going to kiss a ring that had 100 lips on it! I have a germ phobia and didn’t like his church pomp anyway.

Santuario de Gudalupe Interior (George Thomson/

The nuns approached me immediately and asked, “¿No respetas al señor?” they asked, “¿No crees en él?” Don’t you respect or revere him? No, I don’t, I thought but I was too afraid to say the truth.

Padre Nacho (George Thomson/

This man who preached humility, chastity and poverty, strutted through the rows of boys and girls with clothes engalardonado wearing robes of silk and gold. Sitting as “Rex” in his padded chair waiting for each of us to “kiss his blessed hand.”

La gente del pueblo lo veneraba y le temia, si, le temian. Era duro para juzgar y condenar en público a cualquiera que de acuerdo a sus principios ofendía a Dios. La ofensa podía ser algo tan trivial como hablar en voz baja en la iglesia, o vestirse inadecuádamente ante el Santísimo, como llevar manga corta, o ropa apretada, por supuesto, las mujeres eran sus blancos preferidos en estas abruptas interrupciones a gritos dentro de la Iglesia.

He preached every Sunday about what bad Catholics we were. He was the closest thing to God we knew. The ordinary people revered him and yes, they feared him. Often he could judge and condemn anyone in public according to the principles that offended God. The offense could be something as trivial as talking quietly in the church, or dressed inappropriately before the Blessed Sacrament, like wearing tight or loose clothing. Of course, women were his favorite targets.

Llegó a interrumpir bodas a gritos porque el vestido de la novia, o las chalinas de las damas, o los pajecitos con flores. Novias llorando, quinceañeras despojadas de su ceremonia… y me preguntaba, ¿es éste un hombre de bien? ¿Dónde está su misericordia, donde está su amor por el prójimo? ¿Dónde?  ¿Quién es éste hombre?

El Mono Bichi

Then there was the Mono Bichi campaign. The Mono Bichi is a huge statue of a Mexican killing a a bat with his trident.

The bat represents the death of ignorance, something Padre Nacho cared about. Yet, Padre Nacho had a problem with the Mono Bichi because, the statue is completely naked.

Because the sight of a naked man violated family values, he had a statue sized diaper placed over the Mono Bichi’s privates. Well, that lasted for a few months; nobody changed his diaper and the elements took it off. Today, the Mono Bichi stands proud and naked.

El Mono Bichi 2

El Mono Bichi killing ignorance. (George Thomson/

His Legacy

The Church’s view of Padre Nacho was as a saint. His work in Nogales, Sonora did much for the education of young people. The Church wrote in a book about Padre Nacho, “Su muerte violenta dejó consternado al Estado de Sonora, el Padre Nacho, auténtico apóstol de Cristo, perdura en el tiempo a través del ejemplo de la vida en sus obras.” (His violent death dismayed that the State of Sonora, Padre Nacho, a true apostle of Christ, lasts over time through the example of life in their works.) (

Today Padre Nacho is remembered as an educator and each year the Básquetbol Copa Padre Nacho tournament brings together the best young basketball players in the country. A Church news letter reported, “At the opening of the 2010 tournament, Engineer Fernanda Montoya and Mr. Jorge Noriega opened with a “moving ceremony to honor Padre Nacho was the first step to three full day’s action. Before anything happens he paid a tribute to who gives name to this Cup to the Father dear Nacho, the video tribute was the most important moments in the priest’s life until his tragic death, concluding with ‘Thank you for your legacy.'”

It’s said you die as you live

Se dice que se muere como se vive. Aunque no me parece del todo aplicable, en el caso del Padre Nacho esta frase se volvió relevante —murió como vivió. Su crueldad para con los demás, sus incontables secretos, sus inconfesables pecados, se lo llevaron.

Justicia pudieran decir algunos, crimen dirán otros. Nunca se descubrió quién lo mato ni cuál fue el móvil. No hubo robo y no se llevaron su anillo de oro tantas veces besado, pero sí sus testículos además de dejar innegables señas de tortura.

His cruelty towards others, countless secrets, shameful sins, took him away.

Justice, could say some, others will say crime. It was never clarified neither who killed him nor what was the motive. There was no stealing, they didn’t even take the-thousands-times-kissed golden ring, but they did take his testicles and left undeniable signs of torture.

We are left wondering about the contradiction; how an important religious person who did so much to help the young people of Nogales with his contributions to education, his direction to the faithful could be assassinated in such a horrible way? The act of Padre Nacho’s murder brings current events of the world to our border town.

Calle Padre Nacho - Nogales, Sonora. (George Thomson/


Author’s note: The facts of this story are true. Padre Nacho was a well know leader of the Catholic Church in Nogales, Sonora for years. He was murdered in 1985, as described, and reported in

His personality is accurately described based on several sources. The opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

35 thoughts on “Padre Nacho — A powerful and controversial Nogales priest is remembered by a student

  1. Wow,George! Great story. I am sure you got a huge response to it, both positive and negative, huh? I thought it was very well written and it reminded me of the movie Mystic River. Hope you are doing well. Tu amiga que siempre te recuerda con cariño, Lourdes :]

  2. Actually Lourdes, yours is the only response, Maybe it’s been read and the people hi knew him are still not talking, more likely, it isn’t read. I would appreciate your comments as to the story’s accuracy.

  3. Mr Thomson congratulations on your Spanish, not many gringos write it with such deepness

  4. This is a creepy story— should be made into a movie. I remember padre nacho, as a young girl I revered him myself and I was brain-washed into thinking he was almost “god-like” and not one to disagree with.

    I remember hearing about his death but was not sure if it was true or not.

    I moved away from nogales which to this day I miss very much and always will.

  5. I am still asking myself what the purpose of this article was. There is no proof of any wrong doing of Padre Nacho, but you have clearly judged him by heresay. And even at that, without any evidence. You mention the priest abuse, are you aware that over 50% are fraudulent claims?? You have taken the good name of a priest, and btw, many priests die awful deaths such as this — and more and less disgusting ways. Are you suggesting that all priests that are murdered are abusers?

    Wow. I have never seen such a mean spirited attempt of character assasination as you with the poor Padre.
    Not one bit of evidence, and yet at every angle you condemn him. Very disturbing actually.

  6. This is my Uncle you are talking about.

    I lived with Padre Nacho. I know him and his life story.

    This is an horrendous affront to my Uncle, a good man who gave his life to the people of Nogales.

    Padre Nacho would speak at Mass against the Mexican Mafia. He would speak to them, as often they would in attendance. We see today how the drug cartel have taken control of the border towns.

    Why not talk about the real problem affecting the border towns — like the drug cartel…instead of making assumptions about sexual abuse and ruining the good name of a priest that died trying to protect his people.

    Shame on you.

  7. Mr. Thompson, what is the real purpose of your article? is it to damage the church or damage the name of Padre Nacho? It is also clear that you didn’t research the life of my uncle, I grow up and lived around him for many years and you don’t have fundamental claims. I urge you to retract your statements and recommend that you learn more about him. You may read the biography of Padre Nacho called “De Sonora al Cielo” by me, first edition July 21 2010 you can find the book at
    Don’t hesitate to contact me at your earlies convenience if I can assist you finding reliable information.

  8. Esta misma historia fue reportada a mi por muchas personas. El propositio de este articulo es darle voz a todos aquellos que se pudieran sentir intimidados expresando un sentimiento cumun entre muchos en Nogales

    Many people reported to me this same story and that is accurate . The purpose of this story is to give a voice to those who feel intimidated to speak what is a common sentiment among many people in Nogales.

  9. Yes! it is important to give the opportunity of expression to does less fortunate, the ones how need to let their anger frustrations and feelings aired. Of course I am just guessing like you, they may be one on the thousand and perhaps a renegaded Catholic that was called his/her attention by the priest. There are many ways to express someone’s opinion on a public forum without offending others. I would like to know why that many people as you refer to don’t express them self? If what you say they are expressing they don’t need to be afraid of placing their name in front of the facts and truth.
    ISBN: 0-9718775-1-3

  10. Soy Nogalense, y el articulo aqui narrado se aproxima mucho a las memorias que tengo del mencionado sacerdote.
    Asisti a una de las escuelas fundadas por el. Y si, era una figura distante, alejada de sus feligreses, alguien a quien no necesariamente se le acerca para pedir consuelo o simpatia. A raiz de este articulo mis hermanas y yo estuvimos recordando algunos de los incidentes que marcaron de alguna forma nuestra percepcion del padre Nacho.
    En una ocasion en nuestra escuela preparamos una celebracion para el padre Nacho. Existia un notorio afan por complacerlo (las religiosas que dirigian la escuela). Para la celebracion un grupo de niñas bailaron el Can Can. Gran error!!!! El sacerdote se mostro indignado por el baile ya que lo considero indecente. Haberle tapado los genitales a la estatua del monumento a Juarez ( mono bichi).Y muchos mas. Porque la iglesia trata de hacer idolos o de elevar a nivel de santidad a humanos tan fallos como cualquiera de nosotros? Porque no mejor reconocer las fallas?
    yasmin jerez

  11. Sr. Thomson

    Existen personas sedientas de reconocimiento y aceptación y al descubrirse no capaces de conseguirlo por merito propio, se valen de la artimaña más ruin, hablar mal del prójimo, intentando llamar la atención. Un individuo con tan insignificante historia y aportación a la sociedad como usted no tiene derecho de poner en tela de juicio la reputación de un hombre del que sus obras hablan por él. Y vaya que se necesita ser cobarde para hablar mal de una persona que ya falleció. Si en verdad tiene deseos de aportar positivamente a la sociedad, solo véase al espejo o justo a su alrededor, ahí encontrará a un “vivo” que está dañando a nuestra sociedad y a quien usted podría de manera personal enfrentar cara a cara y poder así en verdad representar a quien así lo necesite. Construir, Sr. Thomson, esa debe ser nuestra misión, construir, no destruir y menos de manera tan alevosa.

  12. En general, los hombres juzgan más por los ojos que por la inteligencia, pues todos pueden ver, pero pocos comprenden lo que ven.

  13. Con todo respeto Sr. Trujillo:

    yasmin jerez

  14. Sr. Thomson

    Su juicio sobre como mueren las personas es excesivamente trivial, piense una vez más…Existen un incontable numero de casos históricos y recientes que contradicen esa teoría tan mal infundada, el ejemplo más claro sin duda es la forma como murió Jesús en la cruz…nada que ver con la forma en que vivió.

  15. Con todo respeto Sra. Jerez,

    Por que el hombre se aferra a juzgar a los muertos es que los valores que podrían cambiar la historia, suya, la de su descendencia y la mía han dejado de ser funcionales.
    Si nosotros somos tan dados a juzgar a los demás, es debido a que temblamos por nosotros mismos.
    Construir es nuestra misión Sra. Jerez…vea a su alrededor, criticar es la posición más fácil no genera compromiso alguno. Juzgar al prójimo es el proceso por medio del cual los hombres se vuelven importantes y formidables a muy poco costo.

  16. I am so pleased that this comment motivated two aspects of the First Amendment; free speech and freedom from religion.

    El escritor mas importante de Mexico, premio nobel de literatura escribio’ …

    “La muerte define vida. La muerte describe una vida en inmutables formas, no cambiamos excepto para desaparecer. Nuestras muertes iluminan nuestras vidas. Si nuestras muertes no tienen sentido, nuestras vidas tampoco.”

    Octavio Paz

  17. Hey George. Love the piece. But I’m pretty sure that picture of Padre Nacho is really a picture of Santo Toribio: the patron saint of Mexican immigrants. I wrote a piece on a procession up Mt. Cristo Rey and the mass was, in part, held in his honor.

  18. Dear Mr. Thompson

    It saddens me reading this article; I don’t see how you can write something based on so many assumptions versus facts or truth?? You are such a coward trying to make a name for yourself by putting mud on such a great man’s grave.

    First of all, did you see the body like we did? He was killed in 1972 not 1985. You talk about arrogance and a lack of humility? That would be you Mr. Thompson, for not doing your research before writing a story such as this.

    It’s a shame that the only people who are going to believe what you write are ignorant such as yourself.. As for the people that really knew my uncle, they’ll laugh at you such as I did. Your article shows such lack of knowledge.. Publishing pictures of a man that’s not even him! You didn’t even know what Father Nacho looked like?!

    You described his death and torture without knowing the reality of the acts they committed. Why don’t you write about the DRUG LORDS who had him killed? You should be thanking Father Nacho who gave his life trying to save you and many others from these DRUG DEALERS. Do yourself a favor and do your research before publishing something so outright ridiculous as this.

    I demand you retract and apologize for what you wrote.

  19. Mr. Thompson

    Now I realized why I had not read your article about Father Nacho before this week.


  20. I have lived in Nogales for 28 years. I stand by the content of the article and the voice it gives to those who feared (beyond his family) the nature of his actions and attitude.

  21. Mr. Thomson

    I do not care where you got the information in your article about “Padre Nacho” I thought reporters were supposed to be objective. However the information you gander is all distorted ; in your article is clear that you never met him you don’t have not even a real picture of Him…mmm.
    I don’t really know what to think; because it is obvious you are trying to call attention and desperate for publicity … maybe you can’t come out with a real theme or an original idea of how to succeed in life. Or perhaps this defamation may give you the opportunity of becoming some one in your small circle of life, why don’t you talk about something that you know such as your parents, wife or family maybe you’ll be a bit better at it.
    Also you keep repeating “dices que se muere como se vive“ I would like to see how are you going to die!
    Now be honest for ones: Are you jealous? Or, trying to cover the tracks of a loved one committing the crime? … Perhaps you were involved on it somehow?
    Anyway, it has been nothing but a great loss of my valuable time.
    Sincerely I pity you and wish you the best of luck.

  22. I will die in piece with my many children surrounding me.

    Padre Nacho chose to be a public figure, highly public. That public role opens one up to the spectrum of opinions. When one chooses the public life, one must live with the public’s opinion. In your uncle’s case, opinion, both positive and negative still flows around the actions your uncle took.

    I am calling attention to a wide-spread reality of which you may not be aware. I give it a voice.

    All the descriptions of Padre Nacho here are accurate based in fact or opinion based on personal experience.

    Perhaps it is time to accept that there is a strong current of opinion opposite to your family’s expressed here.

    Accept that many disagreed with Padre Nacho. Many fear the type of retaliation from the Church and your family that is shown in your family’s comments and so do not express their opinions.

    Let his work, actions and choices stand on their own. The truth always emerges from the light of free opinion.

    I assure you that I do not speak alone.

    I can also assure you that one’s death reflects one’s life.

  23. Sr Thomson,
    Una persona que se dice ser periodista y escribe difamas sobre otra persona que falleció hace 31 años afirmando haberla conocido cuando el editor tiene escasos 28 años en Nogales, no es más que una calumnia.
    He leído los blogs adjuntos a su infame artículo, en el blog del Sr. Trujillo dice: (y tiene mucha razón) todo lo que usted trata de hacer es destruir la dignidad de una persona muerta que usted nunca conoció.
    Ó como dice el blog de Teresa: ¿lo estará haciendo por envidia, por cubrir algún crimen o por ganar fama?
    De cualquier manera, señor maestro de la escuela secundaria de Nogales y periodista Thomson que en el ejercicio de su libre expresión tiene la cobardía de humillar a una persona muerta con desvaríos profanos y atestando haberse negado besar el anillo cuando la persona occisa nunca uso anillo, certificando sobre el atuendo purpura con acentos de oro (apropiables a un cardenal católico) que vestía la víctima según su testimonio, cuando el mártir llegaba a usar vestimenta religiosa era de color negro y terminando con mostrar una fotografía de otra persona ajena a su víctima y asegurando ser la victima que usted describe en su envilecido artículo.
    Toda esta evidencia:
    Los 28 años de usted en Nogales y los 31 años de muerto del Padre.
    La indumentaria purpura con oro, el anillo y la fotografía; muestran la falsedad de su perverso artículo y su cobardía al escribir estas abominaciones sobre una persona fallecida; ahora, los adornos que usted usó y sus comentarios personales muestran una morbosidad detestable de su parte. (y es usted maestro de la escuela secundaria? . . . . . . . . qué asco!)
    Ahora comprendo por qué la falta de educación y el índice de uso de drogas en los alumnos de Nogales; que tiene maestros como usted (que nunca debieron haber sido aceptados por el distrito escolar “corrupto” de Nogales)
    A ver si tiene el valor de desdecir lo que escribió y pedir una disculpa a todos los que conocimos al Padre.
    PD. Respete mi derecho de expresión y no quite este comentario, sea un poco hombre.

  24. Mr. Thomson

    It has been very hard for me to believe that you actually are a teacher, SCARY!!!…do you even have credentials?…..Is that what you are teaching our children how to write articles without doing any kind of research or investigation, to talk because you have a mouth not a brain? How did you ever enter the educational system?
    Let me see, you said, “I can’t imagine a more horrible way for a man to be killed. “¡Le cortaron los huevos!” They cut off his balls, probably before they killed him“. Why can’t you use a little more sophisticated vocabulary, such as:
    Castrating him or amputating his “Testicles”. Instead of …They cut off his balls.
    You did answer me with: “I will die in piece with my many children surrounding me” What exactly do you really mean? . . Perhaps – I will die piece by piece with my many children surrounding me-. WOW! What a way of predicting your death!
    Maybe you meant peace. Ha?… and you are a TEACHER?…
    I will quote something else:
    “Let his work, actions and choices stand on their own. The truth always emerges from the light of free opinion.”
    Please read again and pay attention to what people are telling you such as
    Gabriel Trujillo
    “Construir, Sr. Thomson, esa debe ser nuestra misión, construir, no destruir y menos de manera tan alevosa”

  25. Please follow the teachings then of Jesus, as related by your uncle. Consider those ideas before expending the personal attacks on me. Accept too, what I say is a wide spread opinion of your Uncle bot dead and alive. I will comment no further than to ask you to show respect for your uncle by living what he preached.

  26. Mr. Thomson

    I want to ratify that Padre Nacho’s body was never mutilated; my intention was only to correct the inappropriate language of a High School teacher.

  27. If Mr. Thomson were a teacher in my daughter’s school, I’d be pounding on the principal’s door to see that she becomes one of his students!

    He’s my kind of teacher: one who has the courage to expose popular idols that, more often than not, have feet of clay.

    Besides, he writes beautifully and with candor and passion – virtues rarely found among pedagogues.

  28. En la mayoria de los casos de este tipo existe algo en comun.
    Pudo haber alguien ofendido que no podia quizas por su condicion social denunciar algun acto reprensible de este reverendo. Yo no me atreveria acusar a nadie de nada y menos de algo que no se puede probar. Pero hay algo que es Biblico y no falla. De la abundancia del corazon habla la boca. Lo que muchas veces una persona dice varias veces con enfasis, es lo que hace o lo que le falta. Alguna vez Jesus golpeo a alguien en pecado, o le grito a una prostituta porque estaba en pecado? NO. La realidad es que nadie aprende forzandolo, sino haciendo que su mente cambie, hasta que comprenda de donde vino su mal o males habitos y terminar con eso. A oido usted oir de alguna mala actitud de la Madre Theresa? No creo. El amor no radica en la critica, la critica apunta a ocultar lo que somos o a manifestar lo que no tenemos y deseamos. Por que solo los testiculos. Quizas alguien sabia algo, o sufrio algo oscuro que no conocemos? Dios sabra y lo que queda es orar por misericordia por los que cometieron este atroz acto de violencia.

  29. Sr. Thompson:
    Lo felicito y lo abrazo. Documentos como el suyo hacen renacer mi esperanza en la humanidad.
    Una humanidad que fue salvajemente golpeada, ultrajada, violada, asesinada por el clero durante más de 400 año. Una humanidad que vivió un retraso en su educación y en el desarrollo de la ciencia por esos cuatrocientos años hasta que la cultura renacentista levantó la frente. Pero los resabios continuaron y la alusión que Usted hace, es completamente atinada de todos aquellos que creen poseer la verdad y golpear al indefenso con ella. Alude Usted con buena redacción a un abusador del poder y a un explotador de masas y de jóvenes indefensos en su conciencia que buscaban el apoyo espiritual. NO hay mérito en el educador, si éste, fue merecedor de buenas ganancias económicas. Las escuelas que tuvo, para eso servían y es el ejemplo claro de lo que se pretende hoy.
    Fue, su personaje, seguidor fiel de las falanges españolas de Franco y defensor del sinarquismo que tanto daño ha hecho al país.
    No veo mérito alguno, al tratar de rascar la historia buscando uno, dándole premio por educador. Extraordinarios educadores ha dado Nogales que no se enriquecían a través de las escuelas, ni educaban con malicia a los educandos que por ellos transitaban.
    El mismo personaje hubiera vuelto a quemar a Juana de Arco si le hubiera sido posible, Hubiera masacrado a los miles de Cátaros si hubiera tenido las suficientes armas. Es un gran pecado usar el púlpito para ennegrecer las mentes jóvenes, para llenar de odio a los inocentes y además es un gran delito hacerlo. Bien juzgado hubiera terminado el la hoguera que por cientos años, personajes como él usaban a diario, quemando a inocentes.
    Me he extendido, pero con gusto renuevo las baterías ante cualquier beato persignado que pretenda defender a un mal educador, a un ensuciador de mentes y a un prepotente ególatra que por muchos años asiló, junto a él a un abusador de niños.
    Lo felicito de nuevo.

  30. Yo conosi al padre Nacho curse mi primaria en la escuela Gante y mi Hermana en la Kino pues mis tías eran muy católicas. Limpiaban el santuario sacudían los santos. Cada Domingo estábamos en misa escuchando al padre Nacho o Valdivia. Yo era un niño y al padre Nacho era al único padre al que se le tenia cierto temor. Recuerdo también al padre Valdivia al cual si nos acercábamos con confianza pues ese padre era buena honda. El padre nacho lo recuerdo por sus regaños, su soberbia su altivez y en veces le llegue a besarle la mano. Muy popular en mi barrio y pues en todo Nogales por sus maratones para arreglar el Santuario. La critica que yo escuchaba de el en ese tiempo era mas negativa que positiva.

    Que fea muerte.
    Descanse en paz

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