Preparations for Valencia's emblematic Las Fallas festival have been tarnished by an act of vandalism with an apparent homophobic motive.
A sculpture of two boys, one black and the other white, depicted exchanging a kiss on the cheek, was found destroyed in the depot holding the so-called ninots, the name given to these traditionally satirical papier-mâché sculptures.
It had been sculpted like many others to be paraded and then set ablaze during Valencia's famous Las Fallas festival, a week-long celebration held every year to honor Saint Joseph, the patron saint of the carpenter's guild.
Juan Rabadán, president of the Las Fallas commission, told Spanish radio broadcaster Cadena Ser that the vandals ripped the head off one of the boys and part of the body of the other.
Rabadán has called it a premeditated “homophobic” act of vandalism, stressing that the trespassers came prepared to jump the security fence.
Una escena de la Falla L'Amistat, presentada a concurs en el Premi Arc Iris, que premia a les falles que millor reflecteixen la diversitat sexual, de gènere i familiar, ha patit greus danys durant la matinada d'avui.Hui volem demanar unes falles més respectuoses amb la diversitat pic.twitter.com/S21mmCRj2d— Lambda (@lambdavalencia) March 15, 2018
Tweet by local LGBT group calling for Las Fallas to be "more respectful when it comes to diversity".
The sculpture had actually been selected by the association that built it as the one they wished to keep for posterity, as is traditional with the favourite ninots of the festival.
It was also a candidate to the Premio Arco Iris (The Rainbow Prize), given to the sculptures that best depict sexual diversity in Las Fallas.
Valencia's most emblematic fiesta has a distinctly political tone, especially when it comes to the hundreds of giant wooden, cardboard, or papier-mâché sculptures built to illustrate Spanish society and its issues.
Even though the event is characterized by the burning of the majority of these ornate and very telling ninots, the sculpture's premature destruction illustrates, somewhat ironically, the problem it was looking to portray.
Spain remains one of the world's most gay friendly countries according to studies and it is a pioneer in gay marriage.