San Antonio.- Introduced in the Chicano Civil rights era and well known and loved throughout the west side, Pancho Claus is an iconic legend in the hearts of many Latinos. Decked with a sombrero and zarape, and his burro Chuy, some say he was created by a fairy godmother who granted the wishes of two poor Mexican children. The cousin of Santa Claus comes every year to help promote goodwill and Christmas spirit on the southern border.
For over 20 years now, the mayor has invited Pancho Claus to come to San Antonio to help distribute gifts to the growing populace of children. In 1980, Pancho Claus asked the Miguel Hernandez Memorial Chapter of the American GI Forum to establish a program to do such. Since then, the program has become an integral piece of San Antonio’s Christmas culture.
He has brought many tears of joy and Christmas to thousands of San Antonians who would never have had one otherwise. Since the program started, Pancho Claus and his friends have distributed more than 3,300 food baskets and given gifts to as many as 14,000 local children.
Imagine a year without Pancho Claus. The legacy was almost lost this Christmas season due to the lack of funding, being that donations to them are not tax deductible. Many corporations refused to contribute to the cause because of this.
“This year we were running into some financial problems and we were almost not going to have to a program. But the members and the folks have said we can do something. Let’s just keep it alive,” said Cosme Barcelo, director of the Pancho Claus program.
Thanks to the extreme efforts of Patrick Resendez (son of one of the founders of the program) the legend will be able to continue his legacy in San Antonio, even if just for one more year. He has made contacts with churches, lawyers and other individuals who have delivered a venue, toys, and food for the needy, without concern of a tax deductible. Nobody wants the spirit of Pancho Claus to die.
“I remember I was little and with my mother when she was working with the program. I was in the River Parade with Pancho Claus. It was a kid’s dreams come true! Pancho Claus means a lot to my mom and me. When mom said we didn’t have the funds for Pancho Claus this year, I knew I had to do something. I mean, there’s no way we can’t have no Pancho Claus!” said Patrick Rezendiz.
The Pancho Claus Christmas program is seeking volunteers to help wrap gifts. To contribute to the program or volunteer your time, contact Patrick Resendez at (210) 846-8988.