• Spain's news in English

Madrid calls time on blacking up 'tradition' of Three Kings parade

Jessica Jones · 18 Sep 2015, 10:58

Published: 18 Sep 2015 10:58 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

For Spaniards, the Epiphany, on January 6th, is the pinnacle of the Christmas season, when children receive their presents from the Three Kings, who brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. 

The night before, towns and cities across the country stage Three Kings parades, during which Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar travel through the streets on floats, throwing sweets and treats to children who line the route.

One controversial aspect of the magical spectacle is about to change in Madrid: while Balthazar has traditionally been played by a white man wearing black make-up, Madrid’s City Hall has announced that it will end the arguably racist tradition and enlist a black actor to play the wise man.

The move comes after critics have complained for years that Balthazar should be played by a black man rather than a white man wearing make-up.

Socialist councillor Mar Espinar confirmed that the left-wing city hall, headed by mayor Manuela Carmena had agreed to a Socialist petition to change the practice, "to reflect the integration and diversity that increasingly characterizes Madrid’s community."

And for Espinar, the gesture is more than merely symbolic: "It is one step further in the recognition of the diversity and multiculturalism that characterizes modern Madrid," she said.

"Luckily this anachronism will be dropped by next Christmas," she added.

The three kings in Madrid’s popular parade are traditionally played by city councillors. Due to the lack of councillors of diverse ethnicities, this has often led to a white person blacking up using make-up.

In December 2014, over 60,000 people signed a petition calling for Madrid to choose a black man to play Balthazar in the parade.

Story continues below…

Critics have long claimed that the parade should reflect Madrid’s diversity, while the city hall always denied claims of racism, citing "tradition" as the reason white men blacked up to play the king.

The three kings parades are not the only event in Spain where people have blacked-up. 

Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians) festivals are traditionally celebrated in Spain to commemorate the battles between Catholics and Muslims during the 15th century Reconquest, but have also attracted widespread criticism for the fact that almost all the Moorish characters are actually white people wearing make-up. 

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Jessica Jones (jessica.jones@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Man rescued from bin after climbing in find old clothes
Photo: Policía Local Murcia

Police were called after passersby reported hearing a man calling for help from within a rubbish bin in the Vistabella neighbourhood of Murcia, southern Spain.

Spain faces crucial week as conservatives re-take power
Mariano Rajoy hopes to form a government this week. Photo: AFP

Spain entered a crucial week as acting conservative PM Mariano Rajoy prepared to re-take power, ending ten rollercoaster months without government marked by hope and disillusion.

Eight very creepy Halloween costumes ideas from Spain
Photo: Pan's Labyrinth

Forget flamenco dancers and bullfighters, The Local counts down the freakiest alternative costume ideas to dress up in this Halloween.

Man attacked by racist thug in UK street for talking Spanish

Tomas Gil, 27, from Valencia in eastern Spain was talking to his girlfriend in their native language after a night out in the British seaside town of Poole when he was set upon by a racist thug.

Malaga: Police probe bizarre 'sex death' of homeless Brit
The man was found near Malaga airport. Photo: Dennis Howlett / Flickr

A British homeless man was found dead tied to a bench near Malaga airport with his trousers down and his genitals in a can of tuna.

Clock ticking as Spain races to avoid third elections
Third elections could now be avoided. Photo: AFP

Spain's Socialists voted on Sunday to allow the conservatives to take power, likely averting a third election for Spaniards tired of going to the polls.

Spain worries about tourism future
Photo: Josep Lago / AFP file picture

After basking in its best tourist summer season in 15 years, Spain now sees dark clouds on the horizon as popular destinations reach saturation point and holidaymakers are more thrifty, industry experts say.

Spain's Socialists lift veto on Rajoy to break deadlock
The Socialists have decided to lift their veto on the minority conservative government or not. Photo: Gerard Julien/ AFP

Spain's embattled Socialists on Sunday voted to lift a long-standing veto that has prevented the conservatives from forming a minority government, in what should finally end a ten-month political impasse.

Spain's 'Napflix' aims to bore viewers to sleep
Photo: Screengrab/ Napflix

A Spanish video platform called Napflix, designed to put people to sleep with dull content, was launched this week and its founders are on the lookout for more "monotony and repetition."

Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Spanish 'La Mafia' restaurants banned after Italian complaint
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Hunt launched for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Napflix: Spaniards launch very boring TV channel for siestas
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
jobs available