Some say Santa lives at the North Pole, but many children in Tucson know that he lives with them there. On Christmas Eve, Ramon Gonzales closes down the street in front of his South Tucson home to have an annual Christmas gala for his community.
Gonzales was a former sheet metal worker who is now on disability. About 29 years ago, he threw a Yule fiesta for his children, nieces, nephews and neighborhood children totaling about 25. He had limited resources, but $125 allowed him to purchase some trinkets for the children. He spent about 50 cents per toy, and though they were not expensive; the trinkets meant the world to the children.
Gonzales has always wanted to give to children and make their lives better, so he uses this annual party to do just that. The second year he held the fiesta it grew, and year-by-year it got larger and larger. Each year he said it was too much and it was going to be his last year, but he could not stop. He gets great satisfaction seeing the children happy. This is one day out of the year for him where he can forget about how tough it is to live with his illness, the bills and limited income.
Gonzales lives in a small stucco home on West 31st Street. Initially he cooked hot dogs in the backyard, but today he gets donations. The community knows about the annual event and love to lend a helping hand. The party has grown so that it goes on all day and they have special visitors. There is mariachi music, radio stations, Santa Claus arrives on the Tucson fire truck, and a local steakhouse provides food.
The cities of Tucson and South Tucson have many low-income families. Gonzales, though he does not have much formal education and is disabled, mobilizes the community and helps the disadvantaged children there. The party has grown so that children from other communities now participate. Gonzales has recruited more volunteers because of the growth. They assist him in soliciting gifts, prepared foods, organize activities and welcoming Santa Claus.
Ramon Gonzales is a man of modest means and has never been paid any remuneration for the work he does. He wants the children to believe in the goodness of people and that they are valued by the community. He has made such an impact that Congressman Ed Pastor entered his praises for Ramon in the Congressional Record of the United States of America on October 19, 1999. Though he never expected his Yule fiesta to become an annual event for his city, his 6,000 children party is now called the “Miracle on 31st Street.”