Suddenly, they appear. A large number of Spaniards with black-painted faces and exaggerated red lips, what is usually called "blackface". They celebrate Epiphany.

It is paraded with a long background in the city of Alcoy, and it is said that the tradition may be due to the fact that King Balthasar, one of the Three Wise Men, has African origins in ancient Christian texts.

"We paint our faces black because that's how we've always done it. It's also fun for the kids in Alcoy who can't recognize us," Paula, one of the participants, told Reuters.

Parade with blackface arouses harsh criticism

But the parade also attracts harsh criticism. Rita Bosaho, the first black woman in Spain's parliament, says the tradition harms black children.

"It sends a signal that racism, that our skin, doesn't matter.

According to a 2021 study by Spain's Ministry of Equality, approximately 60 percent of those with an African background, but born in Spain, said that they do not feel Spanish due to discrimination.

"Normalizing these tendencies means that things that shouldn't be tolerated in the 2000st century are still happening in Spain," said Antoinette Torres, the founder of Afrofeminas, an online community that aims to increase the visibility of Black women in the country.

Don't see blackface as racism

She adds that many Spaniards do not see blackface as racism because of the Spanish school system, which she believes does not teach the country's past history of colonialism and slavery.

Spain previously had colonies in Equatorial Guinea, among other places, and also engaged in the slave trade until the 1800s.

Just a few days ago, there was also a debate when the city of Madrid sent out Epiphany greetings to children. There, too, Balthasar wore black make-up. The mayor described it as "a terrible mistake" by the company responsible.

See what the parade looks like in the clip.