Malaga, Spain, Jan 5 (EFE).- Hady Coulibaly, a 29-year-old Malian migrant who years ago jumped the fence into Spain’s enclave city of Melilla in North Africa and ultimately settled in Malaga, will play the part of King Baltasar in the Twelfth Night Procession in that southern Spanish city, a role he said he is “honored” to play and which gives him great “happiness.”
Beneath a brilliant and eye-catching orange and blue tunic with details of flowers and leopard skin, along with a turban and a fabulous crown of feathers, Hady appeared on Thursday before thousands of children, telling EFE that he was a bit nervous before he ventured out into the street for the parade.
But his costume draws the interested looks from stylists and he is the first performer to dress as one of the Three Kings, saying that despite being a Muslim he doesn’t mind participating in a Christian tradition when it’s about giving “joy to the children” on a day he considers “magical” both for him and for the youngsters.
The famous carol “Ya vienen los Reyes Magos” (Here come the Three Kings) begins to be heard when Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar start moving through the corridors of the Malaga Alcazaba or citadel, where the three men playing those parts have outfitted themselves and put the finishing touches on their costumes a few minutes before heading out before the crowds of kids and families awaiting them.
Hady fled the complicated situation besetting his North African homeland at age 18, a country mired in war and economic crisis, and since then he has managed to become fully integrated into his new home in Spain, where he works, studies how to fit in and now is playing the part of one of the fabled and beloved Three Kings who visited the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem.
Before arriving in Spain in 2013, he worked in the fields in Mali and, when he decided to leave his family – leaving behind seven siblings and many other relatives – to seek better opportunities elsewhere he had to endure two years of a complicated journey through three countries: Mauritania, Algeria and Morocco.
Once he got into the Spanish enclave city of Melilla, he stayed there two months until, as a migrant requesting asylum and international protection, he was transferred by ship to a refugee center in Malaga, where he found “a new family” – that of the Spanish Commission for the Aid of Refugees (CEAR) – who provided support and love, lodging and aid in getting training and finding work.
He learned Spanish and remained for three years with asylum status, having to renew that so-called “red card” status every six months, but he was able to obtain the social influence to find work as a gardiner and thus regularize his immigration status in 2016.
In late 2017, Hady began working at CEAR as one of the maintenance and cleaning personnel at the organization’s center in Malaga, where he has remained. Now, he says he is studying to “be able to help people … (who) need help and solidarity.”