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Controversy surrounding the Three Kings’ procession in Alcoy. “This tradition is absolutely wicked”

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They bring shame, not gifts – say the Spaniards, criticizing the tradition of the Three Kings’ procession. Typically, one of them is given a caricatured disguise and pretends to be black, and is joined by hundreds of royal pages, a reference to colonial times. This was not in the New Testament, but in the Valencia area it is passed down as a custom from generation to generation.

In Spanish tradition, only King Melchior has white skin, King Casper is swarthy, and King Balthazar is black. People playing his role paint their faces black and their lips red. Such make-up is racism – says the first black MP in the history of Spain. – This tradition is absolutely vile for our children who were born in this country and who need strengthening and acceptance – emphasizes Rita Bosaho.

What King Balthazar looks like in the Spanish version brings to mind “blackface”, a style of theatrical makeup popular in 19th century America. “Blackface”, i.e. “black face”, presented black people in a caricatured, mocking way. In today’s America, such makeup is considered extremely offensive.

In the town of Alcoy near Valencia, in front of the oldest procession in Spain on the occasion of Epiphany, faces are painted not only by the actor playing the role of Balthazar, but also by about 300 people playing the role of royal pages.

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Black Spaniards have negative associations with such scenes. – This is disrespectful, completely ignoring the fact that these scenes depict slaves. You cannot mock the victims of colonization and slavery, says Antoinette Torres, head of the “Afrofeminas” organization.

It is worth recalling that Spain abolished slavery only in 1867. It had colonies in Africa – in what is now Morocco, Equatorial Guinea and Western Sahara.

Parade participants talk about tradition

Parade participants say they have no bad intentions, they do not want to offend anyone, and critics should see the procession with their own eyes. – They have their own opinions, and I would like to invite them here to see that it is not about whether you are white, black, Chinese and so on. We are all just the king’s helpers – emphasizes one of the participants. – I painted my face black because that’s how it’s always been with us. It’s a tradition passed down to children from generation to generation so that we know who we are, adds another participant.

Opponents of the tradition remind that the New Testament does not mention the origin or skin color of the wise men who paid tribute to the newborn Jesus. It was not until the 15th century that a tradition arose according to which kings represented three continents – Africa, Europe and Asia.

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– Criticism of this tradition came from abroad. It is not controversial among Alcoy residents. Royal pages are magical beings, it has nothing to do with racial divisions – emphasizes a participant of the procession. – No matter how much people insist that it has nothing to do with racism, it is racism. The color of our skin is not entertainment, says Bosaho.

The figures of the Three Kings are extremely important in Spain. It is Casper, Melchior and Balthazar, not Santa Claus, who bring gifts to children and hand out candies. However, nowadays traditional processions have lost their religious character and have become more of a carnival fiesta.

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Main photo source: Reuters

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