Blackface controversy hits Spain’s Three Kings parade

(CNN) — A Spanish custom of individuals carrying blackface to symbolize one of many Three Clever Males — or Three Kings — in parades throughout the nation has sparked calls to finish the controversial observe.

The occasions are held on January 6 to have fun the arrival of the sensible males (“reyes magos”) into Bethlehem for the beginning of Christ. Individuals fill the streets and change presents within the night to mark the top of the Christmas season in Spain.

One of many sensible males, Balthazar, is usually depicted as a Center Japanese or Black man in artwork, in accordance with Western church custom.

In a number of Spanish cities and cities, together with Alcoy in Valencia and Igualada in Catalonia, Balthazar’s assistants put on blackface throughout parades.

Criticism of this controversial observe has grown lately, with requires the usage of blackface to be scrapped and for Balthazar to be performed by a Black individual.

Individuals on the parades put on blackface to emulate Balthazar.

Cristina Quicler/AFP/Getty Pictures

Afrofeminas, an anti-racism group, needs the observe to be abolished.

“It doesn’t matter what you think you’re trying to represent. It doesn’t matter that you think that’s how you make children happy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tradition. If you paint yourself a color that is not yours, it is racist,” mentioned Elvira Swartch Lorenzo, a member of the group, in an announcement.

“The parade helps to normalize slavery as something harmless and inconsequential in the collective imagination, which is completely untrue,” Lorenzo mentioned.

Afrofeminas argues that the outdated custom perpetuates fashionable injustices. The “dehumanizing stereotypes” peddled by the observe stoke additional prejudice in opposition to migrant populations within the locations the place the parades are held, the group provides.

TV3, a tv channel in Catalonia, advised CNN that they solely broadcast from the parade in Barcelona, the place blackface is just not used.

“TV3 has rejected proposals to broadcast some cavalcades live precisely because blackface was performed,” mentioned a spokesperson for the channel Thursday.

But regardless of criticism, preparations for this yr’s parade, which can be held on Friday, press on. The organizers of the occasion in Igualada advised CNN that “about 1,000 volunteers” will take part within the parade.

“Participation for this celebration is open to the entire population, without any type of distinction or discrimination,” mentioned the Organizing Committee of the Cavalcade of the Kings of Igualada. They mentioned the volunteers are “the reflection of an open [and] inclusive” metropolis.

The organizers mentioned “we are always respectful towards criticism,” including that “critiques are analyzed and taken through an internal process of debates.”

The organizers mentioned they’d trialed options “that continue to include the historical side of the celebration, the volunteers and the citizens of the city.” Nevertheless, they didn’t specify what these options concerned nor how they deliberate to reply to the criticism confronted by the parade.

“This year, 2023, and like it has been done since 1899, the parade in Igualada will be majestic, and most importantly, it will be magical,” organizers added.

Jordi Martinez, deputy mayor of Alcoy, has defended the custom. “For those that dress up it’s an honor, it’s not a degrading thing,” he advised newspaper La Vanguardia.

He conceded that “in time steps will have to be taken” to mirror the considerations of those that oppose the observe, however in the end “the success of the parade is that we make it as traditional as possible.”

CNN’s Jack Man contributed reporting.