Black Pete, Smurfs, and a Native American / Pedro Negro, los pitufos, y un nativo americano

La versión en español está después de la versión en inglés.

Other than the couple with guns (click here), there wasn’t too much that offended me at the International Fair parade. I found a good spot in front of a lamp post so, given my height, I wouldn’t block anyone else’s view. Just as the parade arrived at the fairgrounds, a man (my height) came and stood directly in front of me. He blocked my view, as you can see from the first photo below. Much shorter people next to me were very frustrated and left to find a better viewing spot. He would step out directly in front of the paraders to take pictures. At one point, I said “fuck it” and I stepped forward into the space he had vacated. That got a look but nothing more.

I was lucky. Two men in two families across the way got into a fist fight. I think over personal space. People screamed. The fight was broken up. One family, that arrived as early as I and seemed very nice when I first saw them, departed with two crying children. The other family, who seemed a bit rabid, remained.

Several countries around the world, like Belgium and the Netherlands (and countries they occupied), have a traditional Christmas character called Black Pete (Zwarte Piet in Dutch). People dress as this companion to Saint Nicholas donning curly wigs, red lipstick, and blackface. Yes, blackface. As you might expect, the racist depiction has become controversial in recent years and a trend is underway to change him to Sooty Piet (Roetveegpiet in Dutch) with chimney soot on his face. We have two Dutch acquaintances here who argue it’s not racist, it’s simply a tradition. They‘re white, of course. Slavery and occupation are also traditions. Anyway, there were two people in blackface as Black Pete as part of the Belgian contingent. I didn’t photograph them, shook my head and frowned as they passed, and was pleased to see they received no applause and even some surprised looks (and Spain has only recently come around to the fact that blackface is unacceptable when portraying Balthazar).

And then there was a cowgirl and Indian for the United States. Maybe he was a real Native American. What do you think?


Aparte de la pareja con armas (haz clic aquí), no hubo demasiado que me ofendió en el desfile de la Feria Internacional. Encontré un buen lugar frente a un poste de luz para que, dada mi altura, no bloqueara la vista de nadie más. Justo cuando el desfile llegaba al recinto ferial, un hombre (de mi estatura) vino y se paró directamente frente a mí. Bloqueó mi vista, como se puede ver en la primera foto de abajo. Las personas mucho más bajas a mi lado estaban muy frustradas y se fueron para encontrar un mejor lugar para ver. Saldría directamente frente a los desfiles para tomar fotografías. En un momento, dije “a la mierda” y di un paso adelante en el espacio que había dejado vacante. Eso consiguió un vistazo, pero nada más.

Tuve suerte. Dos hombres de dos familias al otro lado de la calle se pelearon a puñetazos. Pienso en el espacio personal. La gente gritó. La pelea se disolvió. Una familia, que llegó tan temprano como yo y parecía muy amable cuando los vi por primera vez, se fue con dos niños llorando. La otra familia, que parecía un poco rabiosa, se quedó.

Varios países del mundo, como Bélgica y los Países Bajos (y los países que ocuparon) tienen un personaje navideño tradicional llamado Black Pete (Zwarte Piet en holandés). La gente se viste como este compañero de San Nicolás con pelucas rizadas, lápiz labial rojo y cara negra. Sí, cara negra. Como era de esperar, la descripción racista se ha vuelto controvertida en los últimos años y ha comenzado una tendencia a cambiarlo a Pedro el Hollín (Roetveegpiet en holandés) con hollín de chimenea en la cara. Tenemos dos conocidos holandeses aquí que argumentan que no es racista, es simplemente una tradición. Son blancos, por supuesto. La esclavitud y la ocupación también son tradiciones. De todos modos, había dos personas con la cara pintada de negro como parte del contingente belga. No los fotografié, sacudí la cabeza y fruncí el ceño cuando pasaron, y me complació ver que no recibieron aplausos e incluso algunas miradas de sorpresa (y España se ha dado cuenta recientemente del hecho de que la cara pintada de negro es inaceptable cuando se interpreta a Baltasar).

Y luego hubo una vaquera e india para los Estados Unidos. Tal vez él era un verdadero nativo americano. ¿Qué piensas?

• As the story goes, the above Belgian character, called White Moussis, came about in 1499 when the Abbot Prince of Manderscheidt forbade the monks of Stavelot Abbey from participating in pagan carnival celebrations. The locals, in protest, all dressed as white monks. And, yes, Smurfs are Belgian, too. Oddly, although they do black face, they don’t do blue face.
• Según cuenta la historia, el personaje belga anterior, llamado Moussis Blanco, surgió en 1499 cuando el príncipe abad de Manderscheidt prohibió a los monjes de la abadía de Stavelot participar en las celebraciones del carnaval pagano. Los lugareños, en protesta, todos vestidos como monjes blancos. Y sí, los Pitufos son belgas. tambien. Curiosamente, aunque hacen la cara negra, no hacen la cara azul.
• Same outfits for years now.
• Los mismos disfraces desde hace años.
• 2019. Never a good look.
• 2019. Nunca una buena mirada.
• Finnish? I thought they were Canadian.
• Finlandés? Pensé que eran canadienses.

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

40 thoughts on “Black Pete, Smurfs, and a Native American / Pedro Negro, los pitufos, y un nativo americano”

  1. Yeah, it’s time for Black Peter to disappear. I think it’s one of the reasons Krampus is increasing in popularity the past few years — he’s more acceptable as a Santa sidekick these days.

    And yay, Finns! Always nice to see a hockey nation on the move!

    1. Debra:
      It was funny how I saw hockey and assumed Canada. But, yes, yay, Finns. Thanks for your comment on Black Peter. I find it unacceptable. I don’t really care what the tradition was.

  2. Of course he was a backwards baseball hat wearing moron.

    Those Aussie uniforms and their oh so tragic crotch stars and lettering. I might have had to get on my knees and pout my face right in his crotch to read what was … wait, what was I doing?

    1. Bob:
      I don’t know what that guy was thinking when he stood there. Clearly not of anyone else. I don’t get those Aussie leotards. It would be something else if they were at least a little sexy.

  3. The perfect parade for tons of photos! And you captured it all very well. And the ‘best’ to last.

  4. You could volunteer for the planning committee next year, and give advice on costume selection – really neat photos looks like a fun place

    1. David:
      I’d probably live to regret that. Imagine giving advice to people who want to go in black face.

  5. Not too windy, judging from those droopy flags, so I don’t care about those women wearing kilts. If it had been gusty then I’d hope women would be banned from wearing such. With men fine.

    1. Raybeard:
      Only a slight breeze at times that day and very summer-like. A fun touch for men-wearing-kilts would be battery operated fans on wheels.

  6. Great parade. Looks like the Australians have their label “downunder”. Odd.
    There are always some jerks in any crowd.

    1. Wilma:
      Yes, those blue leotards are really strange. And too bad about the jerks.

    1. mcpersonalspace54:
      I don’t get that gun-toting couple. Well, I don’t get a few of these paraders. But glad they’re a small minority. Of course the cowgirl was holstered and armed, too.

  7. Three special cheers for the Ukrainian contingent!

    I think it probably IS time to do away with Black Peter, but it must be hard when it’s a cultural thing you’ve grown up with and perhaps loved and then found it suddenly frowned upon. I understand why people struggle with such changes. I guess I wonder about Black Peter’s folkloric back story — if it’s really something chimney-related, that’s one thing, but if he’s supposed to be of African descent, that’s something else entirely!

    Yeah. That not-good look is definitely not good. I’ve been loving all these fun pictures, though!

    1. Steve:
      I can’t accept the Black Pete tradition on any level. It’s thought to have begun in the Netherlands in the 1860s, inspired by a man who wrote a children’s book after buying a slave at a market in Cairo. Belgium and the Netherlands were central to the African slave trade. Not a tradition to take pride in. And a slap in the face of any person of color in the parade or watching from the sidelines. (As you can tell, it really gets me going.)

      I’m waiting for those blue leotards to show up at Fuengirola’s public market. Great for the gym.

      1. Oh, yeah — that IS a problem, being directly linked to slavery. Yikes. Time for Black Peter to disappear!

  8. Great photos — the bright colours are so fun to see in these dreary times. Maybe you could enter Moose next year to represent Canada? A little Mountie Stetson or Canadian flag kerchief would look so cute on him!

    1. Tundra Bunny:
      Ha! The only way to get Moose in a stetson or kerchief is Photoshop.

  9. Is that white robed chicken a member of the Coop Clucks Clan? Is it a chicken? They can do black face but not blue face, huh? Well, priorities, I guess. I’m not going to talk about the rudeness, no no.

    1. Deedles:
      This is scary. Tynan made up a joke on his way home the other day that made him so proud. We all groaned when he told it last night. “What do you call a group of racist chickens?” “The Coop Clucks Clan!” Wait until I tell him what you wrote! And, yeah, I’d love to ask why they don’t do blueface for the Smurfs. Then again, the individuals dressed as Black Pete were the obvious racists. I don’t want to paint the entire Belgian contingent with the same … blackface.

  10. Nope that guy is not an indigenous person at all. You cannot dress like that in Canada nowadays, the woke crowd would come after you. I do get the point of the Dutch about black Pete, yes it can be viewed as racist, but again it is an old cultural trait. May not appeal but then again this festival you have could be seen as cultural appropriation, we cannot do such festivals anymore in Canada either.

    1. larrymuffin:
      I can’t accept Black Pete on any level. That time has passed. The country contingents are represented by expats and citizens of those countries. So, I figure as long as they’re not doing something like blackface (or redface) they’re simply representing their own cultures.

    1. John:
      I wish I could remember where the masked characters were from. It wasn’t Mexico but definitely another Latin American country.

    1. Kirk:
      She does, doesn’t she. Yeah, I’m also pretty sure it’s not.

  11. The Indian looks like he could be legit. The blue body suits with stars are striking, which is probably why you see it every year. I Googled Black Pete to see if the blackface was as awful as you indicated, and it was and then some….. waaaay over the top. Would serve ‘em right if the makeup never came off and they were stuck living their life that way. Bet they’d stop the tradition then.

    1. Shirley:
      Clearly some company donated the blue body suits, and they’re holding up well. But they sure aren’t flattering… and the logotype and stars upon thars! Black Pete has got to go.

  12. As an Australian (living in Queensland), I am embarrassed by those dreadful, cringe-worthy “Australian” costumes. What were they? Wetsuits for surfing? Wrestling suits? Pilot’s jump suits? And wtf is going on with the blue gloves? Fortunately there were only three (?) of them. Good on them for marching (presuming the marchers were Australian) but yes, they definitely need a costume change/upgrade.

    1. David:
      I was hoping maybe you could explain the reason behind those blue leotards. They are SO bad. I can’t believe they’ve actually found people willing to go through the streets in them.

  13. Fist fights at a parade. Despicable! As I recently commented on Spo’s blog…people have mad em hate going out in public.

    1. Sassybear:
      The fist fight was appalling. I’ve never seen that before. People tend to be very sociable at the parade.

    1. Sassybear:
      Black Pete is a Christmas character. The couple in black face knew very clearly the statement they were making. Besides that, they were both young (maybe 30-ish). Disgusting.

  14. Did they have real guns? How strange. The fistfight is strange, too. Many years ago I was on a backroad in Bloomington, Indiana, and two cars suddenly stopped. Men got out and started punching each other. I was happy to drive away.


    1. janiejunebug:
      Well, I certainly hope they weren’t REAL guns (that would be against the law), but they were swinging and pointing fake ones. I remember being in a supermarket parking lot in Las Vegas. A car started to back out; another car came around the corner and honked and quickly passed. When he got to the end of the lane and stopped the other car raced up behind him, the driver got out and ran up to the guy that honked and started punching him in the face through the open window. The first driver then sped off. Patience.

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