Cristina Pacheco, one of Mexico’s most acclaimed journalists and beloved television personalities, announced her retirement Friday after a career spanning more than 50 years. The 81-year-old Pacheco said on her weekly Canal Once talk show “Conversando Con Cristina Pacheco” that she was leaving due to “serious health reasons.” She did not specify her condition.
“It’s difficult what I’m going to do, but I have to do it,” a visibly moved Pacheco told viewers on the live broadcast. “For health reasons, serious health reasons, I have to suspend, at least temporarily, these conversations.”
Pacheco’s announcement that she was leaving journalism comes as a shock for legions of fans who have followed the veteran reporter’s career since she hosted her groundbreaking interview show “Aquí Nos Tocó Vivir” starting in 1978.
With her trademark blonde hair, easy smile, and unmatched interview skills, Pacheco brought everyday Mexicans, from farmers to celebrities, into the living rooms of millions with a human touch seldom seen on television.
“A fundamental part of the history of Canal Once,” said network director Carlos Brito on Twitter in confirming Pacheco’s decision to quit broadcasting.
Humble beginnings to fame
Born in central Guanajuato state in 1941, Pacheco showed an interest in journalism from an early age. After graduating from college with a literature degree, she wrote for publications like El Popular, El Universal and Excélsior.
Married to acclaimed Mexican author José Emilio Pacheco, the aspiring reporter gained her first national exposure when she took over as host of “Aquí Nos Tocó Vivir” after incumbent Guillermo Ochoa left the program.
The show’s producers were hesitant about Pacheco initially due to her lack of on-air experience. However, her natural poise and gift for connecting with people from across Mexico’s social strata won them over.
“Pacheco is a fundamental part of the history of Canal Once,” Brito wrote Friday. “We will miss her greatly.
Each Saturday night, Pacheco would travel to some far-flung or forgotten community to interview residents about their lives, struggles, and triumphs.
The show turned obscure everyday citizens into national figures like almost no other program in Mexico’s history. Millions tuned in to watch the latest adventures of Pacheco and her crew.
“I did a program about the garbage dump, and I never thought it would last,” Pacheco said in an El Universal interview celebrating “Aquí Nos Tocó Vivir’s” 25th anniversary in 2003, dismissing the notion she was an overnight success on Mexican TV.
“We never took sides and were very respectful.”
Pacheco’s magic with interview subjects earned her the adoration of viewers, critical praise, and her first National Journalism Award in 1985.
‘Queen of the Interview’
Never one to rest on her laurels, the university professor launched “Conversando con Cristina Pacheco” in 1997, cementing her reputation as one of Mexico’s sharpest inquisitors.
Francisco Cuarón, director of Canal from 2002 to 2005, called Pacheco the “queen of the interview” for her deft handling of guests ranging from former presidents to paupers.
“Nobody like you to tell the stories of the invisible, of women, farmers, workers, artists,” Culture Secretary Alejandra Frausto wrote on Twitter in tribute.
Historian and intellectual Enrique Krauze praised her “admirable community journalism, close to the people.”
Through the 2000s, Pacheco continued breaking barriers as one of Mexico’s most influential female journalists in an industry still dominated by men. A 2010 El Universal profile on prominent women in Mexican media singled out Pacheco as the exception to the rule in her longevity and relevance over multiple generations.
News of Pacheco’s sudden retirement sent shockwaves through Mexico’s journalism community and on social media. By Saturday morning, “Cristina Pacheco” was the No.1 trending topic on X in the country.
Fans and colleagues tweeted hundreds of messages expressing gratitude for her storied career and wishing her well in her health battles. Many simply wrote “Gracias, Cristina” along with emojis of flowers and clapping hands.
“It’s the end of an era,” Canal Once said in a statement. “We lovingly say goodbye to our beloved Cristina Pacheco, an extraordinary woman who gave life to infinite stories.”
The National Polytechnic Institute that runs Canal Once said Pacheco’s “human and journalistic greatness will remain engraved in the memory of Mexicans.”
There has been no word on who, if anyone, will replace Pacheco on “Conversando” in the short term. Likewise, the fate of her signature show “Aquí Nos Tocó Vivir,” also hangs in the balance without its legendary host.
In any case, an entire nation gave its heartfelt thanks and warm abrazo Friday to a true pioneer who gave voice to the voiceless and brought Mexico to world for over half a century.
“We will not be able to continue talking,” a fighting back tears Pacheco signed off Friday night, “but I will say that we will always be together.”