Sanchez: father of Spanish media

By Emma Lynch


“He was a showman and show people are not really simple people at all. Paco was complicated,” said Andres Neidig, friend and employee of the late Francisco “Paco” Sanchez. And so is his story.

A man of all faces, from that of a painted clown under the tents of Mexico, to the first Mexican in the country to own a radio station, to a contractor and politician, Sanchez may have had simple ideals, but his legacy and achievements remain unprecedented.

Born in Guadalajara, Jalisco in 1915, Sanchez received his education at the University of Mexico where he studied medicine. His mother passed away when he was only five and he was raised by his grandmother who mandated his medical studies. His real passion however, lay in that of theatre and promoting.

On stage he was known as Nostradamus. Accompanied by his wife Hilda Maria, known as the dama de la cancion, the two were a famous class act. Sanchez also spent his time promoting shows and orchestras. It was this that brought him to Denver in 1948.

“I remember him telling us a story about a man who came to this country mopping floors in a furniture store. He heard nothing. No music. Nothing that had to do with the Hispanic community,” his daughter Rosie said.

“There is no place for my people to dance, to just be,” he had said. “The Mexican people work very hard and at the end of the week they just need a place to go and have fun.”

With no Spanish language radio station to get the word out on his acts, he made his move. He purchased a 30 minute show for himself at KTLN located in the Park Lane Hotel. Gradually increasing his air time, he bought the whole station in 1954 and made it his own.

The beginnings of KFSC, which stood for Francisco Sanchez Colorado, began in a kitchen at 3340 Lafayette Street. With national companies not interested in advertising with a Hispanic business, KFSC charged $3 a spot to small local businesses.

Upon his arrival to Denver, Sanchez hired a young girl to be his translator. “Everything started when he got the radio station. Everything, he was a genius,” said Carmen Beall, long time friend of Sanchez and business partner of KFSC. Her husband, Levi, also worked with Sanchez.

Sanchez opened up theaters and ballrooms in the mile high city. Working to bring shows to the Rainbow Ballroom, he also opened up the acclaimed Holiday Theater on West 32nd and brought in the Tabor Theater on 16th. He packed the theater houses and moreover, the hearts of Latinos, whose entertainment interests had been virtually ignored before his arrival. Mariachi Vargas and Pedro Infante were just a few names that flocked to Denver. He broke barriers by getting into the jazz scene in the later years bringing Duke Ellington and Count Basie to town.

Sanchez created a strong Latino organization, Buenos Americanos or the Good Americans Organization (GAO). He built an additional youth center, believing youth should be actively engaged citizens. Later, he opened Coronado National Bank. He built 44 homes for low income families. Proud of his American citizenship, Sanchez helped others obtain theirs. One year he harbored a class that graduated 250 new citizens.

Sanchez ran for the House of Representatives, winning as a Democrat in district seven.

Sanchez passed too early at the age of 57 from cancer in 1973. “He was sick, but he didn’t show it,” Beall said. His passing affected daughter Rosie especially hard as she dealt with two family crises at one time. She and her husband had just been told her third born son was mentally challenged and may not live. “My world came to an end,” she said. Before he passed away he told her, “Your baby is going to be ok, don’t you worry.”

Seven hours after he died, Rosie’s son Michael had a biopsy performed, which revealed he had a form of muscular dystrophy, a syndrome in which Sanchez had spent time setting up donation programs through Channel 7. Little would Sanchez know his hard work guaranteed money for research and possible cures for the syndrome.

Controversy ensued upon Sanchez’ death as his written will held no notary or witness making it invalid. “The lawyers took everything, they were like vultures,” a disheartened Beall noted. “It was a fight all the way through.”

Rafael, Paco Jr., Veronica, Rosie and Yolanda were unsure of what the next steps were when their father passed. “It was over 35 years ago. We were devastated and didn’t know what was happening. We believed and trusted our lawyers, but it seemed like they dwindled away the estate money and settled for a lesser amount. All we knew was there were more assets than liabilities,” Rosie said. The estate remained open for 11 years.

The station went into probate and was eventually put into several different hands throughout the years: Ed Romero, Jerry Sandoval and Michael Herrera. Years later, KFSC’s call letters were changed to KBNO and in 1990, Zee Ferrufino and Frank Ponce bought it. Today it is owned by the Ferrufino family.

Sanchez’ daughter Rosie still lives in Denver with brother, Rafael. Yolanda resides in Portland and Veronica in the Golden area. Paco Jr. passed away a few weeks ago. His wife is a pastor and the two had owned a church in El Paso. “He was so much like my dad. A tremendous sense of humor and a lover of life. He was an amazing brother,” Rosie reminisced.

The Paco Sanchez Park, a memorial to her father, is located at Knox Court and W. 13th Ave. A perfect tribute to his grace, as Rosie recalls time the family spent in parks where her father would munch on watermelon and her mother played leap frog with the children.

But it isn’t just Sanchez’ family who notes his influence. He had many friends, one of the best being Joe Constantine. Neidig also says Sanchez was a mentor to him. Working for the radio mogul for 14 years as the eventual general manager of the station, he went on to own and manage radio stations in Greeley and Cheyenne.

Beall recalls his devotion to people, young and old. Always making them laugh, always reaching out a hand to help. She talks of Sanchez as if she can see his still youthful image in her mind. “He would sit there on the theater steps eating popcorn with the kids showing them tricks. He was quite a man. If he hadn’t died, he would have been our mayor.”

As he used to say when signing off after every single radio program: “Por mi Dios, por mi patria, y por mi nombre.”

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