Madrid apologizes over Epiphany video featuring blackface


Sunday, 7 January 2024 (13:03 IST)
The mayor's office in Madrid has apologized for distributing videos for the holiday of Epiphany that featured a white actor wearing blackface.
The videos showed King Balthazar, one of the legendary Three Wise Men from the Bible, depicted by a white man wearing thick black makeup. Early Christian texts describe Balthazar as African, and Renaissance paintings often depict him as Black.
In the video, the man addressed children watching and promised them lots of presents while putting on a fake foreign accent and speaking with grammatical errors.
"It is obviously not the right person to feature in these videos. It's a regrettable mistake on the part of the company charged with this activity," Madrid's deputy mayor, Maria Inmaculada Sanz Otero, told reporters after the video made news headlines.
The video production company apologized for any offense caused and said it had not intended to ridicule anyone but instead tried to portray Balthazar in a "believable way" for the children.
Activists and politicians condemn video
The video, which city hall said had been distributed to 20-30 families upon request, attracted criticism in Spain.
Anti-racism platform Afrofeminas called the video "disgusting."

"Normalizing these tendencies leads to things that shouldn't be tolerated in the 21st century still happening in Spain," said the group's founder, Antoinette Torres.
She pointed to an incident last year when football fans hung an effigy of Black Real Madrid player Vinicius Jr from a bridge.

Eduardo Rubino of the left-wing Mas Madrid party also described the actor's affected accent as "pathetic" and "pure racism."
"It's incredible that among the 120,000 residents of Madrid who are of African descent, they were unable to find a single one who can play the role of Balthazar," he said.
The depiction of Balthazar by white people in blackface is part of a wider Epiphany tradition in Spain that includes annual parades on January 5.
Rita Bosaho, who was the first Black woman in Spain's parliament and led the Equality Ministry's racial diversity department from 2020 to 2023, said the tradition tarnishes the memory of enslaved people and disempowers Black children in Spain.
"It sends a message that racism, that our skin doesn't matter," she said.

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