#73 Ignacio Nicknamed Nacho

Written by Food Non-Fiction October 20, 2020

This is the incredible true story behind the cheesy, crunchy dish that everyone loves - Nachos! This story of nachos was uncovered by children’s book author, Sandra Nickel, who wrote the illustrated children’s book titled “Nacho’s Nachos The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack”. 

Sandra found descendants of three key people involved in the creation of nachos and heard the nachos origin story directly from them. She corresponded with 1) Luis Ignacio Anaya (the grandson of the person who invented nachos), 2) Patricia Finan de los Santos (the granddaughter of the customer that nachos were first created for), and Rodolfo de los Santos Jr. (the son of the person who owned the restaurant where nachos were invented).

The story of nachos goes like this…In 1940, four women from Eagle Pass, Texas went to Piedras Negras, Coahuila to eat at the Victory Club. At least one of these women, Mamie Finan was a regular there. They asked Ignacio Anaya for a new snack. Always wanting to keep guests happy, Ignacio agreed even though he had no idea what to make. When he spotted a bowl of totopos (fried pieces of corn tortilla) he had the idea to add cheese and jalapeno strips on them. He popped this into the oven to melt the cheese. Years later when he reflected back on his inspiration for the dish he noted that his foster mother had often made him quesadillas. 

Upon trying the delicious new snack that Ignacio brought out, Mamie asked him what the snack was called. Ignacio simply named the snack after himself, replying that it was called “Nacho’s Special”. As it turns out, “Nacho” is a common nickname for the name “Ignacio”!

While there is some confusion around whether Ignacio originally named the dish in English (Nacho’s Special) or in Spanish (Nachos Especiales), Sandra has found evidence that points to the dish originally being named in English. This makes sense because the dish was made for an Mamie Finan who was an American. In an old ad written by Nacho himself, the ad referred to nachos as “Nacho’s Special”.

The Victory Club where nachos were born was closed down in 1961, and Nacho went on to open his own restaurant. His former employer, Rodolfo de los Santos, gave him kitchen equipment to thank him for his time at the Victory Club. Nacho passed away on November 9, 1974 at the age of 79. He is remembered as a generous family man.

Special Thanks to Our Interviewee:

Sandra Nickel - author of Nacho's Nachos The Story Behind the World's Favorite Snack