In keeping with recent years, the traditional Wise Men parade in Madrid, Spain, which took place on Friday, eve of the Epiphany, was surrounded by controversies, this time because the public celebration of the Christian feast had an “inclusion” float, featuring a drag queen, a stripper, and a female hip-hop artist.
The trio starred on one of 17 floats at the event in the Puente de Vallecas district in southern Madrid.
Information regarding the original plan varies. Some reports indicate they were supposed to participate in costume, while a tweet from one of the organizers says it was agreed in November that they would participate as animals, representing Noah’s ark.
The float “for the normalization” of LGBT rights, as it was presented, was put together by several associations, including Orgullo Vallekano, a Gay Pride collective in Madrid’s Vallecas neighborhood. Ahead of the parade, a representative told local daily El Mundo that they had originally suggested to the city council that there should be a parallel parade, but the administration invited them to join the main one.
This is what the float looked like, according to an image Orgullo Vallekano posted on Twitter, saying: “With rain, Christmas carols, a lot of love and a lot of desire to contribute our grain of sand in this magnificent Wise Men parade.” The hashtags translate to “it wasn’t so bad” and “animalize yourself for diversity.”
Con lluvia, villancicos, mucho amor y muchas ganas de aportar nuestro granito de arena en esta magnífica Cabalgata de Reyes Magos de #Vallecas #noeraparatanto #Animaletesporladiversidad pic.twitter.com/lT38ddtCfz
— Orgullo Vallekano (@orgullovallekas) January 5, 2018
The annual Three Kings parades, held the night before Epiphany on Jan. 5, are a much loved feature of Spanish Christmas celebrations, more popular with children than Santa Claus.
Spanish children write letters to the Three Kings, or Three Wise Men, who then bring the children gifts the night before, or on the morning of the Epiphany, January 6th, “leaving” them on- or around- a pair of shoes left out of the wardrobe for the occasion.
Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra, head of the archdiocese, didn’t address the situation directly, but went to Twitter on Friday to send out a reminder: “Dear parents, explain to your children that the Wise Men from the East come to adore Jesus, filled with his joy and love, and give us these gifts.”
He closed his message with a hashtag, #FelicesReyes, the equivalent to #HappyEpiphany, and which was trending at the time.
When approached by Crux, members of his team had a similar response, saying that it’s a “very important celebration for Christians and everyone in Madrid, during which children are the protagonists.”
“Let’s not use it for personal or ideological interests,” a source added, repeating Osoro’s core message: “The Magi came to adore Jesus.”
Madrid’s City Hall is led by Manuela Carmena, of Ahora Madrid, a party formed in 2014 that went on to win the city’s elections, in a coalition formed by the Communist Party of Madrid and United Left Madrid. In 2015, the traditional cabalgata saw a woman portraying one of the Magi, and last year the costumes chosen generated uproar, and were compared in social media with bath curtains.
Carmena, a former Communist party member, has been to the Vatican several times, participating in events organized by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences in a global effort to combat modern day slavery and human trafficking, and has voiced her admiration for Pope Francis.
However, she’s openly opposed the Catholic Church’s teaching on family, and has criticized the effects the country’s long standing Catholic culture has had on society.
The Twitter account of United Left celebrated Christmas Eve with the picture of a Christmas tree set on fire:
— IU Madrid (@IU_Madrid) December 24, 2017
Critics have argued that Madrid City Council should respect the parades’ traditional form.
“We support Gay Pride and the rest of the celebrations, but we believe the Kings’ Day should be respected as a religious holiday,” said Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida, the Popular Party’s spokesman for Madrid council, on Twitter.
In a different message, he urged the mayor to treat Christianity with “the same deference” she gives to other religions, and to “let us live Christmas in peace.”
The drag queen who took part in the float goes by the artistic name “La Prohibida” or The Forbidden. Ahead of the event she said on social media that protests against their participation shows the real nature of the LGBT-phobia because “this de-naturalizes tradition, but Darth Vader’s participation last year doesn’t.”
As a footnote, some protested last year’s Vader, but the costumes of the Magi, the replacement of the camels for tricycles and the bearded women who were on the main float, and Baltazar, one of the Wise Men according to tradition, alternating Christmas carols with African music, captured most of the criticism.