In the book “La India Maria: Mexploitation & The Films of María Elena Velasco” by Seraina Rohrer, she mentions that all La India Maria movies follow a formula: Maria is exploited in the beginning and in the end she defeats her adversaries & unmasks their corruptions. That formula Seraina speaks of is exactly what happens in Okey, Mister Pancho. Of course.
La India María (Maria Elena Velasco) lives a simple life with her grandfather and burro. There’s also a mischievous monkey hanging around their ranch as well. When a plane crashes nearby; Maria goes to the crash site and finds a handsome gringo named Frankie in the plane, barely survived. She takes him home to recover, but he has lost his vision in the crash. As he tries to recover, he teaches Maria a little bit of English and Maria has grown very smitten of “Pancho”. Frankie is now called Pancho by the way since the name “Francisco” or “Frankie” in Spanish derives to “Pancho”. Pancho noticing how naive Maria can be; he asks her to deliver his bag of “medicine” over to his “ailing mother” in Houston, TX. Maria happily agrees to do this for him and heads out at whatever cost. She then tries to cross over the legal way (with her belongings in a cardboard box, a turkey & the monkey), but becomes paranoid at the cross line. She then tries to cross over as a “mojada” (wetback) aka crossing the border illegally by swimming, but fails to. She then sneaks under a truck that is crossing over and pulls through. When Maria arrives near Houston, she deals with the perverted little man that drove the truck that crossed over and is rescued by an unusual Indian chief who wants her as his “5th wife” and when she finds out she’s not really delivering medicine to Pancho's mother whom actually turns out to be his girlfriend (Felicia Mercado); all hell breaks loose. Well, not exactly that, but things do take a turn to the goofiest. 100%!
At a time when Gilberto Martinez Solares and his son Adolfo were making urban border crime/dramas; Gilberto and María Elena Velasco teamed up for this goofy little comedy that has some elements of those urban border crime/dramas. Okey, Mister Pancho has scenes featuring Mexicans crossing the border illegally and explaining why they’re doing so (for a better life because their life in Mexico is just living in poverty) and the illegal drug trade thriving in Texas border cities. La India María is between all this and does it work out? Absolutely it does. The movie doesn’t parody any of those things at all. If anything, the movie fits in that category perfectly aside from it being a goofy comedy as well.
So we got the urban border crime/drama element on point, but does the movie deliver the laughs? I would be lying if I said this is the most hilarious movie ever, but the movie has its moments of little quirks, laughs & exaggerations we all can find amusing. Tun Tun while having such a small part in the movie; still managed to have a very memorable part since his character is wild, funny & perverse. It’s perhaps the first time we see Tun Tun acting this type of way just right before the Frontera Films sexy comedy era. Ramon Valdés’ character as the Indian chief is such a peculiar character, yet very fascinating as well. After all, he has 4 wives and in search of a 5th. He crowns Maria as his 5th, but unofficially of course.
María Elena Velasco brings a smile to our faces by playing her funny indigenous character that always gets herself in a situation she couldn’t imagine ever being in. Some people will think the India Mara character is exploitive & offensive, but rest assured that María Elena Velasco was never an exploiter but rather someone who’s bringing this familiar stereotype to the big screen so others like her can enjoy & laugh along with as well. La India María is iconic and anyone that says otherwise can go suck a lemon. She’s a character we all adore and never to be looked down upon. We all root for her and she always wins.
Okey, Mister Pancho I’ll admit was a movie I never thought much about before other than finding it a little funny, but now that I’m older and know more about María Elena Velasco, I appreciate the movie more and see it as something uniquely special & so comforting. It is a movie you can sit back & relax to and even enjoy with all your family members. It’s entertaining all the way through and will surely bring a smile to your faces. There are quite a few India Maria movies before this one, but Okey, Mister Pancho feels like the first of its kind and a defining India Maria movie at that. A must see.