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Community members organize Christmas party in South Tucson for 51 years

Community members organize Christmas party in South Tucson for 51 years
Posted at 4:21 PM, Dec 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-19 11:17:13-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The Pascua Yaqui Tribe alongside other community members throw a Christmas party every year in South Tucson.

“Other families have moved out of South Tucson but they come back to help with the event and preparations for it,” said Adriana Valencia, one of the party organizers.

The community is made up of various marginalized groups including indigenous peoples and Latinos.

“These are the families that during down times, particularly with the pandemic are not able to provide gifts for their children,” said Dan Eckstrom, former Mayor of South Tucson.

“It’s just important so they know that we’re here and they’re able to get something,” Valencia said.

Adriana Valencia’s grandfather helped start this event 51 years ago on the intersection of 39th and 11th Avenue. The park across the street is now named after him.

“They were the ones that got it going and then the community took it over,” Eckstrom said.

Community members work all year to organize the party. They hand out around 800 gifts, and donate everything that’s left to nearby neighborhoods.

“All of it is pretty much donation and fundraising," Valencia said. "We do this every single year, it’s just something we know that we have to do every year.”

Last year was the first time ever the event was canceled, and even this year’s party had to be scaled down.

“Really modified, it's just a grab and go event," Valencia said. "Years past, we had wrapped gifts. They were able to sit with Santa talk to Santa.”

Organizers are hopeful they can bring it back full-scale next year.

“I'm looking forward for this tradition that’s steeped in rich history of our indigenous populations to continue,” Eckstrom said.