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Black Santa and Latin Jesus. Photography: Black Santa Wallpaper
Black Santa and Latin Jesus. Photography: Black Santa Wallpaper

What are some Latino and African-American Christmas Icons

Black Santa and Latin Jesus are back for Christmas. Does the skin color of festive and religious iconography really matter?

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Some have grown up with portraits of Jesus with Hispanic features in their room and others have become so accustomed to the Caucasian Christ that they find it almost bizarre or even heretical. These are the same people who seem offended by the Christmas images of Santa Claus with African-American features, and quickly claim his European origin.

But what is really certain about this whole debate?

Opinions, which sometimes appear occasionally on social media, surfaced again with an article by Rusell Contreras, in which he collected samples of American and English families with Christmas icons of various skin colors. 

There were samples taken from both social media and television commercials, and came in a year when the discussion of racial equality was at another of its many peaks.

Some of these displays are compiled in the Black Santa Directory, founded by Vivian Walker. Others include Latino nativity ornaments made in Jemez, New Mexico, and a Methodist Nativity Scene in Claremont, California, with the Black Lives Matter platform as the thematic background.

The facts behind the debate are that, first, they positively motivate all children equally and second, that they are accepted by the very religious communities that employ them.

More importantly, they also point to the extent to which previous icons were embellished. Santa Claus is a pop version after years of advertising St. Nicholas, who we know for sure was a Greek that lived in Turkey.

Jesus was a Palestinian Jew and not only do several studies point to his dark tone, but several thinkers and philosophers have been concerned with demonstrating in recent decades to what extent his corporeality has been re-imagined.

For example, the Iranian philosopher Reza Negerestani pointed out how the Greeks and Romans, cultures that speak a certain way, go against how Jesus spoke in their interpretations of him. Jesus Aramaic, but the first thing the Romans did was to blur his facial aesthetics so that it would be akin to having gone through the process of vocalization and linear articulation of Latin consonants.

This example is intended to show that the issue of icons of different skin colors is by no means a debate of historical rigor, but rather a clear example of cultural hegemony that should be crushed in favor of the diversity and interests of spirituality for each community.

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