Ventriloquist Nacho Estrada, best known for shows at San Antonio schools, has died

The performer was a fixture on school campuses in the '80s and '90s, and his comedic act urged kids to stay in school and steer clear of drugs.

click to enlarge Nacho Estrada performing at the Texas Folklife Festival in San Antonio in the early 1990s. - UTSA Libraries Special Collections / Informedia
UTSA Libraries Special Collections / Informedia
Nacho Estrada performing at the Texas Folklife Festival in San Antonio in the early 1990s.
San Antonio ventriloquist, comedian and motivational entertainer Ignacio “Nacho”Estrada, best known locally for his performances at schools during the 1980s and 1990s, has died. He was 77.

Estrada’s death was confirmed on social media by longtime friend and fellow comedian Efrain “Happy” Guerrero. According to Guerrero, Estrada died Sunday after a long illness. Guerrero said he and Estrada worked together at conventions, schools and public functions over the past 35 years.

“We used to cross paths as we traveled throughout the state doing school shows,” Guerrero wrote on Facebook. “He was my inspiration to perform as a ventriloquist.”

During the height of his career, Estrada was a staple at San Antonio school assemblies. Estrada performed with a ventriloquist dummy named Maclovio, whose would say his famous catch phrase, “I’m not ready!” when the performer tried to take him out of a suitcase and introduce him to the audience.

Estrada also had a puppet named the Tortilla Monster, who spoke with a deep voice and tried to steal kisses. Much of the ventriloquist's act centered around dropout prevention, saying no to illegal drugs and the importance of taking care of the environment.

“I know how hard he worked on routines for children in schools,” Guerrero said. “He was so wonderful with children.”

click to enlarge Nacho Estrada and Maclovio pose for a promo shot. - Courtesy Photo / Nacho Estrada family
Courtesy Photo / Nacho Estrada family
Nacho Estrada and Maclovio pose for a promo shot.

Estrada was referred to by many as “the first Latino Ronald McDonald.” Throughout his career, he was recognized for his work with children, including receiving the Human and Civil Rights Award from the Texas State Teachers Association; Friend of Education Award from Alamo District XX; and the Literacy Award from the Alamo Reading Council. In 1993, Smithsonian Magazine named Estrada the Best Ventriloquist in the category of Distant Voice. In 1995, he was named Ventriloquist of the Year at the International Ventriloquist Convention.

“[He was] such a role model to me and to other kids, using laughter and comedy to feel good about yourself,” wrote San Antonio native Edward Mireles, who remembers Estrada going to his elementary school in 1988. “Thank you for sharing your laughter and your passion to make the world a better place.”

In an emailed statement, Estrada’s family said it's working out details for a memorial service, which will be live-streamed. Fans can send memories and condolences to [email protected] or to The Nacho EstradaFamily at P.O. Box 158, Leming, TX 78050.

Rather than flowers, the family asked that well-wishers make a donation to the Jehovah's Witnesses.

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