By Victor Landa, NewsTaco

Before there was a national debate about whether Santa Calus was white, there was Pancho Claus.

I first met him decades ago, when I worked for KWEX-TV, in San Antonio, Texas. The station produced an annual Teletón Navideño to raise funds for local charities. It was a marathon production. Well known stars from Mexico and Latin America would travel to San Antonio to be a part of it. Pancho Claus was there every year and all the big-name stars would wait with the children to take a picture with him.

In San Antonio, in the late 1980’s, it wasn’t strange that a dark-bearded man wearing a poncho and a red sombrero charro would call himself Pancho Claus. In fact, he became a staple of the city’s Christmas festivities, riding a barge in the Christmas River Parade, visiting schools and retirement communities.

He spread cheer and culture, raised money and collected toys and goods for the poorest families in the city. And it was never a controversy. No one complained about a “Mexican Santa.” No one thought it was odd. They still don’t.

What’s odd is the thought of making a big deal out of Santa being race or ethnically exclusive.

I thought of Pancho Claus when the recent “Santa is White” rant on Fox News turned into a national debate. I don’t mind the late-night comics having their turn at poking fun at it. I think that’s where the thing belongs, a subject of ridicule. But when I heard serious folks on serious news programs talk about it; and saw serious writers devote space in their publications to it, all I could do was shake my head.

Little Mexican-American kids in San Antonio have known for a long time that Santa is just like them.

Ol’ Pancho Claus was ahead of his time … In fact, all these years later he’s got a Facebook page.

[Photo courtesy Pancho Clause Facebook page]


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