Three Kings arrive with message of peace and welcome
The Three Wise Men arrived in Catalonia greeted by throngs of children and families in time for Epiphany
The day before the Epiphany, January 5, the Three Kings make their annual visit to Catalonia—visiting almost every town but arriving first to the Barcelona port by ship, prior to their grandiose parade later that night.
On their way to dock in the capital, they crossed the Openarms refugee rescue vessel, which accompanied Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthasar to their destination. Once there, the Three Wise Men—the recipients of countless letters from children asking for presents—had a request of their own for the little ones: make Barcelona a city of peace and welcome.
“Welcome the newcomers to the city like you welcome us; with excitement, happiness, and generosity. Don’t ever be afraid of what’s different,”
Melchior · Three Wise Men
“Welcome the newcomers to the city like you welcome us; with excitement, happiness, and generosity. Don’t ever be afraid of what’s different,” advised Melchior. After being presented with the key to the city as is customary, the Three Kings also reminded children attending that “the best presents can’t be wrapped: love for others, respect, and being able to live in peace and freedom,” also adding that “freedom is such a beautiful word.
A controversy addressed
Last year, one of the bigger issues remained the personification of one of the Three Kings, Balthasar; played in Barcelona and other Catalan towns by a black citizen, but elsewhere the practice of blackface (a white actor wearing black face paint to play a person of color) remained common.
The term blackface is largely associated with a reckoning of the so-called minstrel shows from a century ago in the United States, where this type of makeup was used to portray black people—often slaves—in a comedic way, frequently based on racist stereotypes, and contributing the spreading and acceptance of prejudice.
In Catalonia, the controversy has been addressed this year. Following a campaign in early December under the hashtag #BaltasarDeVeritat (roughly translated as #TheRealBalthasar), the two larger towns in Catalonia, Reus, and Girona, changed their practice, and are now using people of color for the role of Balthasar. Reus had cast a black person for the role before but went back to a white actor after 2013.