MEXICO CITY (AP) — More than a dozen women and children in dingy clothes encircled a white sedan in front of Mexico’s most-important monument, walking away with plastic trucks and dolls individually wrapped in clear plastic bags. After the sedan ran out of presents, a silver SUV pulled up to unload jump ropes and plastic balls.
As Christians around the world celebrate the Epiphany on Sunday, children throughout Latin America traditionally unwrap holiday gifts that in other parts of the world are delivered by Santa on Christmas Day.
But the less fortunate in Mexico City may not receive anything at all.
The gift-giving at the base of the Angel of Independence statue is an annual tradition for some, while others have only recently joined the fray. Homeless children who beg for money or accompany their mothers selling trinkets along the avenue flock to the vehicles, while others travel hours from poor suburbs in search of a little holiday joy.
Salvador Gonzalez, 33, a construction worker from the State of Mexico, said he was inspired to buy 80 toys in the city centre and dole them out near the statue after seeing others do the same last year. His own children received unicorn pajamas and trucks this year; he wanted to share the wealth.
Gonzalez appeared overwhelmed as families encircled his white sedan and the bounty ran out. The gifts – lovingly wrapped new dolls and trucks – were like a siren call.
“There were a lot of people waiting here,” he said. “You can’t choose what to give them.”
The women in the SUV have their Three Kings routine down to a science. They have been handing out gifts since 2002, marking each recipient’s hand with a marker so that nobody double dips. This year they pooled the equivalent of USD300 to distribute 250 toys plus bags of candy.
Angelica Donato, a stylist sitting shotgun in the SUV, said she relishes “seeing the faces of the happy children.”
Word of the free gifts has spread far beyond the avenue. Jessica Gonzalez, 18, said she spent USD1.50 and travelled more than two hours by bus and train from Chimalhuacan, a gritty suburb of the capital, after a relative told her of the little known tradition. This was her first year looking for gifts, and her first year as a mother.
“We didn’t have anything to give her,” Gonzalez said while cradling six-month-old daughter Alejandra, who made off with a ball and doll.