After years of pressure, Madrid’s King Balthazar to be played by black man

New council to honor longstanding claim by African community regarding January 5 parade

The Three Kings of Orient parade down Paseo de la Castellana in Madrid.
The Three Kings of Orient parade down Paseo de la Castellana in Madrid.

For the first time ever, one of the stars of Madrid’s annual Three Kings of Orient parade will be played by a black man rather than a white man wearing makeup.

Every January 5, Spanish cities hold street parades celebrating the biblical tale of the Three Wise Men who brought gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus. That night, children go to bed hoping that the Magi will bring them their Christmas presents.

Fortunately, this anachronism will be left behind by next Christmas”

Mar Espinar, Madrid Socialist councilor

One of these characters, King Balthazar, has traditionally been portrayed as dark-skinned. But despite longstanding calls for the figure to be played by a person of African descent, the request had so far fallen on deaf ears.

Now, municipal sources say the new leftist government of Manuela Carmena has accepted a petition filed by the Socialist Party.

“It is an old demand by the Afro-Socialist group, and now it looks like it’s going to happen,” said a source.

Socialist councilor Mar Espinar said the decision is more symbolic than it may first appear.

“It is a new step toward the normalization and integration of all peoples, races and cultures that make up the Madrid melting pot,” she said in a release.

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Traditionally, city councilors have played the role of the Three Kings.

“Fortunately, this anachronism will be left behind by next Christmas,” said Espinar.

Other Spanish municipalities have been hiring black people to play King Balthazar for some time, including the nearby town of Alcorcón.

English version by Susana Urra.

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