Edgar N. Palacios
At Lomas of Sargentillo, in the coastal province of Guayas, Ecuador, a young Edgar Palacious prayed as hard as any young boy his age for Santa Claus to bring him a nice Christmas gift; it didn’t have to be large, it was okay if it was small, but as long as it was a nice gift.
At 8 years old, Edgar knew in his heart that during the night the old man in the red suit and white beard would bring him a great surprise that would make Edgar proud to show off to his friends. But all that expectation was soon dispirited when Edgar discovered that the only gift Santa left him was a tiny metal whistle.
Edgar was deeply disappointed and ashamed of having to show only a tiny toy whistle to his friends who all received bigger and better toys, especially the neighborhood boys, who received exciting flashy toys. In reality, Edgar knew it was his father who gave him the whistle, but he was perplexed and didn’t understand how his father, a construction employee, didn’t have enough money to give his son a better gift.
However, the following year, an impressionable Edgar received a wonderful Christmas toy; a colorful plastic rifle with barrels that light up in different colored lights and hissed a whizzing sound that flashed bright sparks on both sides.
Feeling an extraordinary happiness to have a received such a wonderful gift, Edgar was excited to show off his new Christmas toy and join the neighborhood boys in their games of cowboys and Rambo.
Today, sitting in his office on 8 th Street in Los Angeles, surrounded by tax law books, Edgar remembers his disappointing Christmas like something that should never happen to another child. As a merchant, years later, he found out that in the city of Los Angeles there were also low-income families that couldn’t afford to buy a gift for their children.
Early in the days when he was just starting his tax business, Edgar thought that for the Christmas holiday, he would sell dolls out of his store front location on 8 th Street. Instead, he found himself with 700 left over Mattel dolls that were worth $30 dollars each and he was trying to sell for $20. He encountered mothers and fathers who walked by the store front location pulling their daughters behind them quickly so that the daughter would not have enough time to admire the dolls and ask for one.
On a particular day, a little girl saw the dolls and insisted on taking one of them home but unfortunately the mother didn’t even have $5 to spend on a doll for her daughter. "When I saw the little girl’s face so full of disappointment, I remembered my childhood disappointment with the whistle, and my heart just opened up; I told the little girl to pick any doll she liked. She selected a doll that she hugged with all her strength and then she gave me a kiss on the cheek. Well, that little kiss on the cheek felt like the greatest reward I could have ever received; it transmitted something magical in me and brought me back to the wonderful feeling I had as a kid when I got my toy rifle with the spinning lights. I realized at that moment that I was going to do something special every year that brought happiness for the kids."
That year Edgar became known as "Padrino" or Godfather; a name given to him by neighborhood mothers because he stopped selling the dolls, and instead was giving the dolls away in exchange for a kiss on the cheek.
That was in 1996, the following year Edgar handed out 600 dolls. "After that, it become official and we brought in clowns, Jon’s Market joined us and provided food, we blasted music into the street and a tradition was started, Festival Navideno Calle Ocho L.A."
Edgar, who is a successful professional in the auditing industry and taxation services, considers his continued involvement with FESTIVAL NAVIDENO CALLE OCHO L.A. as a way of giving back to the community that supports his business.
This year for 2012, FESTIVAL NAVIDENO CALLE OCHO L.A. will be celebrating its 15 th year of Christmas celebration in the neighborhood. Included in this year’s Festival will be a Heath Care Pavilion to bring health care awareness and education directly to the community. Other venues are being explored for energy education awareness and early educational programs to be included as part of the festivities.
The Festival now attracts attendance from throughout L.A. and Orange counties and it now covers 10 City blocks, from Vermont to Irolo on 8 th Street, and approximately 75,000 to 100,000 people come to celebrate. Admission is free.
"The community deserves it" says Edgar. "Our Christmas celebration is something the community looks forward to where families and friends come to celebrate the cultural diversity of the Latin community through their music, food and local business".