The January 5th Three Kings parades are a highlight of Spain's busy Christmas calendar and see the Three Wise Men, or Magi, parade through cities, towns and villages throughout the country distributing sweets to children.
Once upon a time the roles of ‘Los Reyes Magos' were played by local councillors, one of whom traditionally ‘blacked up’ for the part of Balthazar.
Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP
But in recent years, and since the arrival of a left-leaning council at Madrid’s City Hall, things have taken a rather less traditional turn.
Two years ago, authorities responsible for organizing the cabalgata in Madrid’s Puente de Vallecas district not only decided that an actual black man would be found for the role but stirred up a storm by swapping one of the three kings for a queen – in a nod to equality and women’s rights.
But this year, the planners have gone even further. A collective in Vallecas have taken the bold step of choosing two women and a ‘drag queen’ to represent Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar in the annual parade.
Those chosen to represent the three Kings in the Puente de Vallecas parade will be Roma Calderón, an actress and cabaret dancer , hip hop artist Dnoé Lamiss and 'drag queen' La Prohibida.
“It’s yet another example of the diversity of Madrid,” said Carla Antonelli, a member of the regional parliament for the Socialist party. “It helps raise the visibility of ‘trans’ and LGTBI”.
But for conservative politicians it was a step to far, with representatives from both the PP and Ciudadanos threatening to take legal action to stop it.
“We support Gay Pride and the rest of those celebrations, but we believe that Kings’ Day should be respected as a religious holiday,” said Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida, council spokesman of the PP for Madrid.
Los Reyes Magos de Vallecas son un intento más de @ManuelaCarmena por desnaturalizar la Navidad. Apoyamos el día del Orgullo Gay y el resto de celebraciones, pero creemos que el Día de Reyes se ha de respetar como se respetaría cualquier festividad de otra religión.
— J L Martinez Almeida (@jlmanavasques) January 2, 2018
Begoña Villacís, a city councillor for centre right Ciudadanos, insisted that the parade should stick to traditional guidelines.
Todas las manifestaciones de reconocimiento, de lucha por derechos en Madrid son, porque así deben ser, públicas, de todos los madrileños.
Pero en ocasiones, una cabalgata de Reyes ha de ser simplemente lo que los niños esperan que sea, una cabalgata de Reyes
— Begoña Villacís (@begonavillacis) January 2, 2018
“The parade of Kings should quite simply be what the children expect it to be. A parade of Kings,” she wrote.
Paco Pérez, from the leftist Ahora Madrid and leader of the Puente de Vallecas council insisted that although it was designed to “embrace diversity” and express the normalization of LGTBI rights, the parade would still be in keeping with traditions.
“It’s not going to be a drag queen performance,” he said. “The organizers have been careful with traditions and childhood sensibilities.”
Spain's Three Kings parade come the night before Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, the day when Spanish children traditionally receive their Christmas presents.