Hundreds of Spanish teenagers in Spain wear blackface for Three Kings parade

  07 January 2019    Read: 1140
Hundreds of Spanish teenagers in Spain wear blackface for Three Kings parade

Thousands of teenagers dressed up as royal pages and put on blackface as part of a Three Kings parade in Spain.

The procession, which dates back to the 19th century and commemorates the arrival of the magi Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspar at Jesus' birthplace, took place in the Spanish town of Alcoy, in Alicante province.

As part of the parade people paint their faces black with large red lips before marching through the streets and handing out sweets and presents to local children.

Parades held in cities and villages elsewhere in Spain on 5 January feature three men dressed up as kings. Balthazar is historically depicted as being black.

Images and footage from the Alcoy event, thought to be the country's longest-running, reignited a debate on social media.

“They say its racist in no way... did they even stop to ask any black person how they feel about it?” one person wrote. 

“It's their culture, their celebration, who are you foreign person to come in and say what celebrations they may have? They aren't harming anyone, leave them alone,” another person commentated.

A third added: “Are you telling me they couldn’t find some black people in Spain to ask if this was offensive or not?”

Former Spain and Barcelona footballer Andrés Iniesta faced a backlash after he posted a photo him with a group of people, including two in blackface, as part of the Three Kings Day celebration.

The 34-year-old midfielder has yet to respond to the social media criticism.

Critics have called for an end to the controversial blackface depictions for some time.

Nathalie Labeau, a collaborator with Afrofeminas, told El Pais in 2017 that the elaborate affair was “based in an imperialist and colonial history that celebrates white superiority”.

But Lorena Zamorano Gimeno, a councillor for heritage and tourism in Alcoy, told the paper there was no racist undertone to the town’s “heart-warming” celebration.

In Spain the Epiphany, which takes place on 6 January, caps the Christmas season. This is when children receive their presents from the Three Kings - not Santa Claus.

More about: Spain