MENDOTA, Calif. — A letter to Santa from a 12-year-old boy who asks simply that he and other impoverished children like him are not forgotten this Christmas season generated an outpouring of gifts from residents of his small farm town.
The Fresno Bee published a story Monday about the letter intercepted by postal workers from a boy identified only as Cesar.
Writing in Spanish, Cesar said he comes from Mexico and his father can't find work.
"My mother has already told me they will buy nothing for Christmas because my parents have no money," the letter said.
Cesar said he was sent to live with an aunt who is "muy delicado" -- very particular. Her children -- his cousins -- "tell him she will buy them anything they want while he has nothing," says a Spanish-speaking mail carrier, who translates the letter to her co-workers. "They make fun of him because his dad looks for bottles in the garbage and found clothes there for Cesar."
"Por favor, Santa Claus a cuerdate mi como de otres ninos que necesitan" _ Please Santa Claus remember me and the other children in need.
Compelled by the newspaper coverage, residents in this town about 35 miles west of Fresno have been calling school officials, asking how they could help Cesar and other children like him. The gifts are pouring in.
Mendota's jobless rate has been estimated at 40 percent. Two hundred people in the town with one stoplight lost their jobs when the Spreckels sugar plant closed in September. Beset by drought and water rationing, farm jobs have eroded as environmentally damaged farmland in western Fresno County is retired.
"When the economy is in a downturn and it's rough for people with money, it's impossible for people without," said Cheryl Taylor, a health education worker in Mendota.