On a hot summer morning, a small-framed 11 year old boy crosses the border bridge from Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico into Brownsville, Texas, a long walk, even longer in the hot sun, but a walk the child had made routinely, daily—indeed, everyday of the week, every week of the year, every year since he was five years old. The small boy and his sparsely stocked shoe shine kit knew he could double his money shining shoes on the U.S. side where he could pull in ten, maybe even 12 pesos every day instead of the five pesos he averaged on the Matamoros side.
The boy had never been to school; learned some math by giving change from his shoe shine business; learned to read both Spanish and English from comic books, and by the time he was 11, had gained enough street smarts to know that he could never accomplish his goal to help his six siblings and widowed Mother eat with the money from shining shoes.
This day, this hot summer day in 1951, the boy, by now friends with virtually every one at the border station, waived with special vigor and a disposition the officers had come to love about the ever smiling youngster.
What they didn’t see in his smile today was the sense of adventure, of rapt responsibility that consumed him as he sauntered by, even stopping to shine the shoes of the border chief. What no one knew was churning in the tiny tummy of this spirited kid was that he had talked to his Mother just the night before and had explained carefully to her how the shoe shine business would never keep the family from starving. He had laid out a plan of how he could cross that bridge one more time and find a better job in the U.S. and send more money home. He knew he could work the cotton fields and was willing to start there. The most exciting feeling he ever felt in his eleven years on this planet was when his Mother, who he loved more than anything, gave him her blessings and encouragement by saying, “If anyone can do it, Manny, you can. Go if you believe it is the right thing to do.”
He got his first job picking cotton in San Benito for $10 a week, the majority of which he sent home to his family. For the next four years the lad worked cotton, vegetable and fruit fields of Texas, Florida, Washington State, Imperial Valley, Five Points and Madeira, California. Each week he sent a check home to his Mom. He learned to count and tally by the pound. Each pay day he knew exactly how much his pay was going to be.
One day, at the age of 15, stranded in Los Angeles, his field-sharpened wisdom told this teen it was time to broaden his horizons in this land of great opportunities.
On his way to interview for a dish washing job in Beverly Hills, he accidentally ended up in a goldsmith shop next door. The owner immediately saw the determination and focus of this astute young man and convinced him to become his apprentice for 70 cents an hour—a veritable fortune to the boy who ambitiously accepted the offer.
It was in the medieval craft of goldsmithing that Manny Sanchez found his love and calling. Shortly after his apprenticeship was completed, Manny’s creative touch earned him the position of designer for the prestigious Vogue Creations in Los Angeles where he remained for nine years and designed jewelry for the likes of Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. and many other celebrities.
Soon after joining Vogue, he earned enough to buy a car and anxiously awaited the beginning of his two week vacation when he could drive almost non-stop to see his Mother.
His family in Matamoros was now being taken care of so Manny set his next big goal: that was to retire by the age of 42. He was 27 at the time and knew that he could only reach this goal by being in business for himself.
With $6,000, a wife and three children, Manny moved to Fresno in the San Joaquin Valley, which he had learned to love as a field worker. There he opened his own long dreamed of goldsmith shop. He grew his business by concentrating 90% of it on designing for the jewelry trade making the expensive items for stores and jobbers throughout California, Oregon and Washington State. “One of the first really expensive and beautiful pieces of jewelry I made was a $45,000 bracelet for a Fresno jewelry store customer.” Keeping in mind this was in the late sixties. That must have been quite a hunk o’ diamond-laden jewelry! However, it wasn’t as big a batch of diamonds as were set into the $210,000 bracelet Manny made for one of his own customers just a few years later.
As you might expect, Manny Sanchez was able to retire by the age of 42, and chose to return to his beloved country of Mexico having left an indelible legacy and hundreds of lifelong friends in Southern California.
And, as you also might expect from the story so far, it didn’t take him long to get bored with retirement at such a young age after settling on the beach in Puerto Peñasco.
One bright and sunny day in the early 80’s, on the beach side of his Mirador home, Manny introduced “Taco Loco” to the then small world of this historic harbor town. The eating area was his palapa-covered patio; he was the waiter and his wife the cook—from their own kitchen. That was not only to keep him busy, but to insure the highest quality service and the food coming from the cleanest environment—a rule he has rigidly enforced ever since.
The Real Rest of the Story—Inside Manny Sanchez
Manny’s charisma drew people to “Taco Loco” in ever increasing numbers to the point he, at the encouraging demands of those loyal patrons, decided to expand the eating area which required the not so trifling task of moving the Sea of Cortez back about 50 yards, building a sea wall to keep it there, and protecting his friends and patrons from the summer sun with a giant palapa.
He also built a new kitchen and because of his near obsession with health and cleanliness for the sake of his family and patrons, Manny lined the entire kitchen—the walls and the ceilings—with stainless steel. An extremely expensive but totally secure way to insure a germ free environment.
“Why not call it Manny’s Beach Club? That’s how we feel when we’re here,” encouraged his friends. And that, folks, is how one of the oldest and most popular organized drinking and eating establishments in Puerto Peñasco began.
But that’s still not the rest of the story….
In the early nineties, Manny took an extended vacation back to his roots in Zacatecas and traveled all around, including through Jalisco and the especially interesting town of Tequila. It was here, where he marveled at the hospitable custom of being able to taste a tequila before buying it, that he got the idea of making his own brand of tequila. He stayed a month in the town of Tequila learning everything about the process of distilling and bottling the finest tequilas and became even more obsessed, and convinced, that he could do this.
During that time in Tequila, Manny learned of a small family owned Cava, or tequila distilling plant, for sale. He purchased it then made an offer to the son of the owner to become a partner since Manny could not be in two places at once. A smart move, considering their partnership still exists 20 years later.
Another mark of his concern with the health of his customers and quality of his products was shown unequivocally when, at a cost of $50,000 dollars, Manny commissioned the science laboratories of the University of Mexico to completely test the entire distillation process that had been used by the Cava de los Compadres for generations just to make sure the product was safe and no one could get sick from it. He and his new partner remained at the University for the entire 30 days of lab testing which confirmed the safety of the product and the process.
With this peace of mind, Manny’s Beach Club tequila was born and introduced to his valued customers with great and continuing success.
Manny was now ready to take the next step. Since the first visit to Tequila, he had envisioned creating a tequila tasting experience in Puerto Peñasco just like the one he experienced in the town of Tequila.
Manny quickly discovered that a hard and fast law in Sonora prohibited a liquor establishment from offering a sample prior to the purchase of said liquor. But wait, this was Manny Sanchez’s vision and he viewed that as merely an obstacle he would have to overcome. Again, like challenging the Sea of Cortez, this proved to be no minor task. Result? Manny worked diligently for over three years to obtain the only permit in Sonora to allow tasting his products before buying them.
So pleased was Manny with this result, he built the Blue California Building on the corner of Benito Juarez and Alvaro Obregon, one block south of Calle 13 so he could introduce his quality tequilas to the more adult market found in Puerto Peñasco proper from the younger group that frequents Manny’s Beach Club. He opened the opulent Copacabana Restaurant on the top floor and offered tastings of his tequila brands there until the economy rendered the restaurant unprofitable for the time being. It sits totally intact atop the California Building like a crown jewel awaiting a new dawn of the economy. The bottom floor today houses the renowned Tequila Factory where you can taste before you buy a bottle of tequila, just like in the town of Tequila, Jalisco. And it is an experience you should not miss while in Puerto Peñasco.
Indeed, the charismatic, ingeniously business oriented and charitable Manny Sanchez, without one day of formal schooling, has made a legendary impression on thousands of people in two countries and has overcome all odds to rise from the dirt in the fields as an illegal alien to the pinnacle of personal achievement, not the least of which has been to secure dual citizenship for himself and all his children.
And it all started with a long walk across the Matamoros border bridge on a hot summer morning at the age of eleven…with the blessing of his Mother, who Manny so loved.
This blog brought to you by Sonoran Resorts Sales Group, Jim Ringquist, Director of Sales