Spain's Blacks want an end to blackface part of annual Three King's Day Parade
Spainâs Blacks want an end to blackface part of annual Three Kingâs Day Parade
KAREN JUANITA CARRILLO | 1/11/2018, 11:58 a.m.Men is blackface at Three Kings Day in Alcoy
The annual Three Kingâs Day celebration took place Jan. 5 in Spainâs Mediterranean city of Alcoy.
Each year, Alcoy, which is known for maintaining its mixed Arab/ Spanish medieval heritage, holds a monthlong Christmas festival featuring a picturesque Nativity scene in its Plaza de EspaÃ±a and giant puppets that children can take pictures with.
But the holiday celebrations, which donât end until the commemoration of the Epiphany, when the Parade of the Three Wise Men moves through town, also maintains a tradition of highlighting white men and women dressed head-to-toe in blackface and with painted on large red lips marching through town and handing out candy and presents to local children.
Blacks in Spain find this part of the Alcoy celebration insulting, and many are now worried about the townâs push to have the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization declare Alcoyâs Three Kingâs Day Parade a part of the worldâs Cultural Heritage of Humanity. âThis would be a terrible blow to Spainâs Black community and to Spanish speakers in general,â said Antoinette Torres Soler, founder of the webs ite AfrofÃ©minas.com, âand it would take us years to recover from this.â
Caspar, Melchior and Balthazarâ"the Three Kings, or Wise Menâ"enter Alcoy as part of a procession that features camels, torchbearers, shepherds, musicians and pageboys. These pageboys, or servants (who are in Spain also called ânegretsâ), carry with them long ladders so they can climb up to balconies and run to the front doors of houses to deliver childrenâs presents and candies. Alcoyâs Three Kingâs Day celebration has been taking place for some 133 years. In Spain, it has already been named a âFiesta of National Tourist Interestâ and part of the nationâs âIntangible Cultural Heritage.â Each year, people scramble to make reservations and travel from across the country to take part in Alcoyâs celebrations.
AfrofÃ©minas.com started a campaign to petition local politicians and have them enforce that parade participants not be allowed to march in blackface. Those who ma rch as pageboys donât have to be painted in blackface or any other colorâ"and they can still hand out gifts to children. So far, Alcoyâs representatives have rejected the petition and say there is no reason to change the parade. Besides, many local Spaniards do not want to see a change in the pageboy tradition, which they claim is not racist and only brings joy to children.
But editors at AfrofÃ©minas say that this tradition must be changed, and they are calling for international support in protesting at UNESCO to demand that Alcoyâs Three Kingâs Day Parade be reformed. âThis is offensive,â AfrofÃ©minas states in a recent article on their website. âItâs extremely offensive. It offends us because it stereotypes us, ridicules us. It does not include us, and it falsifies our image.
âWe are real, we are not characters who are not in the streets of Alcoy and the rest of Spain. You cannot rely on the past to keep from making changes. We are here and it hurts us to see ourselves as a joke without personality, without nuances, without humanization.â
Estimates are that Spainâs Black populationâ"of African and Afro-Spanish citizensâ"is nearly 1 million.
AfrofÃ©minas campaign to change the Alcoy Three Kingâs Day Parade can be found at https://www.osoigo.com/es/acciones/la-cabalgata-de-alcoy-es-racismo.html.
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