MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Santos Hernandez, patriarch of the family described in Oscar Lewis' bestselling ''The Children of Sanchez,'' died when he was struck by a car while on his way to work, the newspaper Excelsior said Wednesday. He was thought to be almost 90.

Hernandez was called Jesus Sanchez in the anthropologist's study of Mexico's urban poor. Lewis' book, first-person accounts of the lives of four of Hernandez' children, was published in 1961 and is widely used as a text in both U.S. and Mexican universities. The book, considered an anthropologicial classic, was translated into several languages.

A neighbor found Hernandez's body at dawn Monday on a dusty street in the Iztapalapa sector of southeastern Mexico City where he lived with his second wife and nine of his younger children, Excelsior said.

He had left for his job at the Cafe Tacuba downtown, where he worked when Lewis was researching the book in the 1950s.

''He was always very kind, despite his rough appearance,'' Excelsior quoted a woman identified only as Rita, who works in a store in the neighborhood, as saying of Hernandez, a short, robust man.

The tenement Casa Blanca - in the book called Casa Grande - that was the scene of Lewis' book and where one of Hernandez's children still lived, was torn down in August. A new one is to be built in its place as part of a government-sponsored reconstruction program.

Hernandez was buried Tuesday at the San Lorenzo Tezonco Cemetery with about 150 friends and relatives present, the paper said.