Spanish-speaking Santa greets Mississippi immigrant children

December 21, 2021 GMT

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — Employees of a Mississippi shipyard donated gifts for immigrant children who got to visit with Spanish-speaking Santa Claus.

WLOX-TV reports the jolly old elf recently appeared at the Biloxi office of El Pueblo, a nonprofit organization that provides low-cost legal services for immigrants. Children lined up for photos with Santa, and many were surprised he speaks the same language they speak at home.

“I love them seeing Santa speaking Spanish. That is absolutely great. We want our kids to (not) lose their native language,” said Allison Hanson, access language programs director for El Pueblo.

The idea of the celebration was to make sure Spanish-speaking families could enjoy holiday traditions without language barriers.

“You know, you’re growing up, you never see a Santa Claus that speaks Spanish or different languages. So the more comfortable you can make the kid and the family, the better it is,” Anderson Esquilin said.

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Esquilin is a part of an Ingalls Shipbuilding group called HOLA, Hispanic Outreach and Leadership Alliance. The organization partnered with El Pueblo for the Santa meet-and-greet by holding a toy drive at the shipyard in Pascagoula. Organizers say about 60 shipbuilders donated more than 200 presents for the children.

“A little bit goes a long way. So if everyone does a little, nobody has to do a lot,” HOLA Communications Chair Robert Santos said. “It just represents how good the type of people are at Ingalls.”

Hanson said immigrant families need to know they are not alone.

“We are here for affection, love, support with all of the programs El Pueblo holds throughout the year,” she said.