Amsterdam says Dutch Santa's helper 'Black Pete' _ seen as racist by some _ can visit the city

"Black Pete" is welcome in Amsterdam, despite opponents who say the helper of the Dutch version of Santa Claus is a racist caricature.

Amsterdam municipality said Wednesday the traditional arrival of Sinterklaas and his helper Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, can go ahead Nov. 17, despite official complaints filed by 21 citizens alleging the event is racist.

In a letter to aldermen, Mayor Eberhard van der Laan says the celebration in which St. Nicholas — Sinterklaas in Dutch — arrives by steamboat from Spain accompanied by a horde of Black Petes is constantly evolving.

Pete already has changed from a stereotypical subservient black servant to a playful clown who no longer has to have "curly hair, thick lips and doesn't necessarily need to be black" Van der Laan wrote.