Pancho Claus, the Tex-mex Santa, is Coming to Town

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Pancho Claus, the tex-mex santa, has made several appearances across Texas in recent weeks.

Sometimes he has a black beard or just a mustache. Sometimes he wears a sombrero or a complete 'zoot suit'. Sometimes he dons a pancho. Sometimes he rides a "burro" or donkey instead of a reindeer.

Whatever the exact look, Pancho Claus the 'other' santa. The one from the South Pole.

Pancho Claus is a result of the Chicano civil rights movement, historians say. Lorenzo Cano, a Mexican-American studies scholar at the University of Houston, says Pancho came in the 1970s as Mexican-Americans tried to "build a place and a space for themselves.". This was the same era that saw an increased interest in Mexican art and cultural events like Cinco di Mayo..

Pancho is adored throughout cities and towns in Texas.

"We have kids that we ask, 'Did Santa Claus come to see you?' and they say, 'No he didn't. But Pancho Claus did,'" says Robert Narvaiz, vice commander for Lubbock's American GI Forum and coordinator of that city's Pancho project.

"Pancho Claus comes from the South Pole, and Santa Claus comes from the North Pole, and every year they get together here in Lubbock," says Narvaiz. "Santa ... was he Anglo? Was he black? Was he Hispanic? I guess everybody is trying to do the same thing: Add a little of their own culture."

In many cities, Pancho Claus visits charity events, hands out toys and meals to low-income families and has become so popular that he needs an information officer.

"The end result," says spokesman Patrick Resendez, "is putting that smile on their face."

Image via YouTube

Pam Wright

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