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Nogales Migrant Shelter Founder 'Don Paco' Dies; Family Will Carry on Work

Juan Francisco “Don Paco” Loureiro, one of the founders of a longstanding migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, died earlier this month. He was 76.

Loureiro started the San Juan Bosco shelter in the early 1980s with his wife, Gilda Esquer Félix. They were troubled by the numerous deportees and other migrants enduring the cold and other harsh conditions with nowhere to go and wanted to help, Esquer recounted.

Since then, she estimated that well over 1 million migrants from across Latin America have walked through the shelter’s doors for a few days of warm meals and a safe place to sleep.

“He concerned himself with those who had the least,” she said of her late husband.

“And we’re going to continue (with the shelter), because it’s a legacy that he left us,” she said, adding that it was one of his final wishes.

“When people are deported, frequently it's the most traumatic experience of their life,” said Father Sean Carroll, executive director of the Kino Border Initiative, which also works with migrants in Nogales, Sonora. “And to be able to arrive at a place where they can sleep and have their basic needs met, it's been a tremendous blessing.”

“I’m really grateful for Paco and his life, and the legacy of care for migrants which he has left us,” Carroll said. “And I pray for him and for Gilda and his family during this very difficult time, and I pray that Paco rest in peace.”

Murphy Woodhouse was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2018 to 2023.