Tuesday night featured my favorite fiesta of the entire year, the Three Kings. Every other fiesta is basically an elaborate excuse for the town to get shit-faced plastered for 2, 3, or even four days straight. They are fun in their own right, but they do get old after awhile. The scientific definition of awhile being…. after having to pick up old men from wherever they’d fallen, yelling at people for pissing on the house, and watching everyone between the ages of 14 and 20 throwing up almost nonstop.
The Three Kings fiesta is unique in the fact that it’s all about the ninos. I’m not saying that no one drinks….or smokes pot….or does ecstasy, that would be anathema here, but for once the partying is not the focal point, the kids are. The children here really only know Santa Clause as the fat, white, alcoholic American that he is. I think that most of them think that he is actually the ghost of Hemmingway. They’re really not that far off the mark, are they? It’s only been in the last 10 or 15 years that they’ve started receiving a token present on Christmas morning. For them, the mother lode is during the Three Kings (or Los Reyes fiesta.) This is held on either the night of January 5th or 6th. And all the kids and most of the adults become unhinged in the revelry.
The day is also referred to as the Feast of the Epiphany and the festivities start out in the Spanish home with paella and 7 courses of fish dishes. There is also a desert made especially for the occasion called Rosco de reyes which is a ginormous donut shaped cake filled with delicious cream. Unfortunately, they only make it for this occasion or I’d eat it everyday.
The children’s anticipation and excitement continue to build all day until it is finally released in frenetic, ear piercing shrieks of pandemonium. Which surprisingly, the kids can hold for a good 5 hours.
Finally the stretching and very slow procession begins with the youngest of the children who are wearing both costumes of monks and priests as well as slightly dazed expressions. They are each holding either a sparkler or a flaming torch which is about twice the size of them. There is also a man among the first group who is letting off flying M-80’s every 10 seconds or so to ward off evil spirits. It also helps my dog to piss on the floor.
Next is a cache of adolescent girls dressed as…..actually no one that I’ve asked seems to know. But they are wearing some type of cool ass costume and using their spears to drop a beat to their medieval sounding, thunderous chanting of “long live the king.” The girls are the entourage of King Melchor who is riding a jet black horse and who I presume was the king from Arabia, based on the Spanish legend of the story and the girls’ outfits. Some of them had the crescent moon of Islam with two swords crossing it. It’s at this point that you have to start ducking. You see, there are boys on horseback in the middle and back of the procession whose sole purpose is to throw hard candy into the crowd. The thing is, all these little fuckers could close for the Yankees. I’m talking about a 90mph fastball to the grill. If you get hit in the face it hurts… a lot. The old ladies in the crowd are carrying grocery bags and will literally throw you an elbow if you get between them and their free sweets.
Next comes the army of King Gazpar, all dressed as Roman soldiers and beating another rhythm out by slamming their swords against their shield in time with chants of, “The King has come!” King Gazpar is riding a brown horse and if you can get a glimpse of him without getting pelted by molted sugar, you will see that he is tossing small trinket toys into the crowds. Now with a sugar buzz firmly in place by both the infantile and the elderly, the tease of the little presents and the approach of the last king, the place is in a delirious stupor of derangement.
Lastly comes the Moorish King Baltasar on a white horse and with his posse. They are all in full blackface. The PC thing hasn’t really caught on over here, but then again they don’t have as bad of a history regarding these things. His soldiers’ main function is to distract the children so that the parents can covertly load up the king’s saddle bags with the real gifts for their children. This is done every 15 feet…. ad nauseum. King Baltasar then hands out the gifts to the delighted squeals and shrieks of the kids. The procession goes through most of the streets of the town for about 5 hours before stopping in the town hall to continue the festivities until at least daylight.
I’d think that the whole thing would be as intimidating as hell to the younger kids, but I guess not. I didn’t even see any of the babies or toddlers crying. Every one of them was in a perpetual state of awed bliss! There is nothing better in life than seeing children at their happiest, and this was the happiest that I’ve ever seen any group of children. Ever.
I apologize for the quality of the video. It was taken with a normal camera which was also very low on battery to boot. Next year, I’ll have and use a proper video camera. But honestly, this is one fiesta that you really do have to experience for yourself if you ever get the opportunity.