“Black Faced” European folk characters seen annually at Christmas holiday season- Is this actually a history lesson? The black African Moors of Spain and Portugal

Zwarte Piet (Black Pete)
Many Americans have never seen these unusual Christmas celebrations that occur in some European countries. Many say it was Holland’s Sinterklaas who inspired America’s modern-day Santa. North America’s Santa Claus developed in the 19th and 20th century as a modern perception of Father Christmas, Sinterklaas and Saint Nicholas. Most Americans are use to seeing parades with Santa Claus and his magical elves. Not the case in some parts of Europe, children are greeted with people painted over in “Black Face”. Unlike Santa, who lives at the North Pole, Sinterklaas resides in sunny Spain. Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands each year by steamship.
Question: Is this something that should be received as an insult to non-Europeans or is this actually the telling of a part of history that many people never discuss?  What part of history is not discussed often? The part of history when Europe was under rule by black Africans called the Moors. There are some historians that claim Moors were not dark black Africans. But, history shows that in fact these north Africans, who invaded and ruled parts of western Europe, were in fact of what some call the Negroid race.
Shakespeare’s “Othello” 1965 movie (Laurence Olivier) in Black Face
The film starred Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Frank Finlay, and Joyce Redman, Derek Jacobi and Michael Gambon.



Zwarte Piet













Zwarte Piet (Black Pete)
Sinterklaas and his “Black Pete” servants is said to arrive in the Netherlands on Nov. 15.
Every year the Bishop of Mira comes from Spain to the Netherlands to celebrate his birthday on Dec. 5 by giving presents to Dutch children.
Read the story: “Holland’s Politically Incorrect Christmas: Santa’s Little (Slave) Helper”
In the Netherlands, legend has it that Sinterklass (Dutch name for St. Nicholas) arrives in the Netherlands by way of steamboat from Spain 2 weeks before his traditional birthday, December 6th, along with his helper, Zwarte Piet (Black Pete), who will help disperse the gifts and candy to all the good children.
Zwarte Piet appears only in the weeks before Saint Nicholas’s feast, first when the saint is welcomed with a parade as he arrives in the country (in the Netherlands by steam boat, from Spain), and is mainly targeted at children, who come to meet the saint as he visits stores, schools etc.
1845: Jan Schenkman writes Saint Nicholas and his Servant; Piet is described in this book as a servant and as black, and is depicted as a dark man wearing Asian-style clothes.
According to myths dating to the beginning of the 19th century, Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) operated by himself or in the companionship of a devil. Having triumphed over evil, it was said that on Saint Nicholas Eve, the devil was shackled and made his slave. A devil as a helper of the Saint can also still be found in Austrian Saint Nicholas tradition in the character of Krampus.
Some sources indicate that in Germanic Europe, Zwarte Piet originally was such an enslaved devil forced to assist his captor, but the character emerged in the 19th century within the Netherlands as a companion of Saint Nicholas resembling a Moor.
When the Romans entered West Africa in 46 B.C., they saw Africans and called them Maures, from the Greek adjective Mauros, meaning dark or black.  It is from Mauros and the Latin term Marues that the word Moor is derived. Since the inhabitants of North Africa at this time were native black Africans, the white European Romans and later the other white Europeans called them Moors.  The a few of the lands inhabited by the Moors today in North Africa have the modern country names of Mauritania and Morocco.
Moors refers to the historic and modern populations of Muslim (and earlier non-Muslim) people of Black African descent from North Africa. In modern Iberia, the term continues to be associated with those of Moroccan ethnicity living in Europe. Some consider it pejorative and racist.  Although the Moors came to be associated with Muslims, the name Moor pre-dates Islam. It derives from the small Numidian Kingdom of Maure of the 3rd century BCE in what is now northern central and western part of Algeria and a part of northern Morocco.
In the year 712 it is said that Sephardi Jews helped Muslim black African Moor invaders capture Spain, ending Visigoth rule and beginning a 150 year period of relative peace, in which Jews were free to study and practice religion as they wished. The Visigoths were one of two main branches of the Goths, an East Germanic tribe. The Visigoths were settled in southern Gaul (now France) and ruled over what is now Spain and Portugal. The black Moors of Africa were the actual conquerors of what is now Spain and Portugal.  When the Muslim Arabs arrived to the Iberian Peninsula, the hardest part of the job had been done.  Instead of treating the black Moors fairly, the Semitic Arab leaders assigned themselves the most fertile regions of what is now Spain and Portugal.  The dissatisfied black Moors were not long in coming to blows with the Semitic Arabs. (A Semite means of half or mixed blood, that being part black African and Asiatic or Afroasiatic).
The Moors were the medieval Muslim inhabitants of the European Iberian Peninsula including present day Spain and Portugal and the region of Africa north of the Sahara Desert and west of the Nile and western Africa, whose culture is often called Moorish. The Roman Latin term “Mauri” described the native black inhabitants of North Africa west of modern Tunisia.
“Moor” comes from the Roman Latin word “Mauri” or Greek word “Mavros” or the derivative Maures, which described the peoples of North Africa. A Maure was anything which is black and represents Africa. The Moorish architectural remains in Cordoba, Seville, and Granada, Spain today. 
In 711, the Moors invaded Visigoth (modern Spain), Christian Hispania (Iberian Peninsula). Under their leader, an African Berber general named Tariq ibn-Ziyad, they brought most of the Iberian Peninsula under Islamic rule in an eight-year campaign. They attempted to move northeast across the Pyrenees Mountains but were defeated by the Frank, Charles Martel, at the Battle of Tours in 732. The Moors ruled in the Iberian peninsula, except for areas in the northwest and the largely Basque regions in the Pyrenees, and in North Africa for several decades. The Pyrenees are range of mountains that form a natural border between France and Spain. They separate the Iberian Peninsula from France. The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice is a tragedy by William Shakespeare written around 1603. Othello is referred to as a “Moor”, but for Elizabethan Englishmen, this term referred to the Berbers of North Africa, or to the people we would now call “black” (that is, people of black African descent). In William Shakespeare’s other plays, Shakespeare had previously depicted both a Berber Moor (in The Merchant of Venice) and a black Moor (in Titus Andronicus).
In 1492 King Ferdinand and Isabella expelled the entire Jewish community is expelled from Spain. This occurred when the Spanish Army defeated Muslim Moor forces in Granada, thereby restoring the whole of Spain to Christian rule.

1494 Jews of Florence and Tuscany were expelled.

1497 Portugal expelled its Jews. King Manuel of Portugal agreed to marry the daughter of Spain’s monarchs. One of the conditions for the marriage was the expulsion of Portugal’s Jewish community. In actuality only 8 Jews were exiled from Portugal and the rest were converted by force to Christianity. On March 19, 1497 (the first day of Passover), Jewish parents were ordered to take their children, between the ages of four and fourteen, to Lisbon. Upon arrival, the parents were informed that their children were going to be taken away from them and were to be given to Catholic families to be raised as good Catholics.

The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (The Maafa) Portuguese king around 1494 entered agreements with the rulers of several West African states allowing trade between their respective peoples. The First Atlantic system was the trade of enslaved Africans to, primarily, South American colonies of the Portuguese and Spanish empires. The Second Atlantic system was the trade of enslaved Africans by mostly British, Portuguese, French and Dutch traders. The main destinations of this phase were the Caribbean colonies, North America and Brazil.
Here are some writings on the word usage of Moor.

Until the arrival of the Moor, literally, “the Black” Europe was entangled in a web of cultural decomposition characterized by ignorance, rampant disease due to hygienic neglect, starvation and European slavery. Dark Ages is the term used for the period of intellectual darkness that occurred in Europe following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.

Sir Thomas Elyot called the Ethiopians, Moors. Sir Thomas Elyot who lived between 1490 and 1546 was an English diplomat of the King and scholar. He was appointed High Sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire in 1527.

-Othello is described with a close attention to detail which leaves no doubt that Shakespeare intended him to be black. Sir Thomas Elyot published the English “Dictionarium” (Latin and English) in 1538.

The Dutch in the 16th and 17th centuries (1500s and 1600s) used the term Moor, meaning a blue-black color similar to the color of coal. Moriaan was used for black-skinned and dark nonwhite people.

In Spanish literature the African in the person of the Moor is usually of the ruling or upper classes. There was no derogatory intent evident, simply that “the Moor” or “Moorish took precedence over the use of the word “negro” (feminine “negra”).

Moor, meaning a Moor or “Negro” is Dutch. More, Moresque, Moricand, Morean, Maure, Mauresque, and Mauricand, are French forms based on the root More meaning a Moor “Negro” and later merely black, dark-skinned or swarthy.

-The German, Dutch and French origin of the name in that of the Moorish people even appears at times in England as in John le Moor. There is also familiar the name Blackmore from black-as-a-moor or blackamore. Morre, meaning a Moor or Negro and later merely black, dark-skinned or swarthy.


Richard Percival in 1591 wrote Bibliotheca Hispanica. Containing grammar, with a dictionary in Spanish, English, and Latin.

The following was used in Richard Percival’s writing:

-In 1591 Richard Percivale equated Spanish mora with ‘a woman black-Moore’ and Morillo with ‘”browne, a little black Moore”. Percivale was greatly amplified by Minsheu in 1599 and we find the following:
More, vide Moro, a blacke Moore
Morisca, a women Moore that is become a Christian
Morisco, a blacke Moore made or become a Christian
Morado color, murrey or yron colour, darke colour
Morel, brown duskish colour
a Moore, v. Moro
a Blacke moore, vide Arabe, Negro
Negrillo, a little blacke Moore, somewhat blacke
Negrito, idem
Negro, blacke Also, a black Moore of Ethopia
Prieto, or negro, blacke, browne

These translations reveal a great deal of flexibility, in that both moro and negro are equated with “blackmoore” while “blackmoore” is equated with “Arab” as well as morisco and negro, and prieto and negro are equated with “browne” as well as black.

In 1617 Minsheu equated Latin maurus with “Niger, black” and in another place stated: “Moore or Neger = a Moore, or one of Mauritanie, a black Moore, ore Neger…vid. a Neger and Black Moore and Ethiopian”.

“Negro” gradually came to be a common term, especially after extensive contact with the Spanish and the Portuguese.

In any case another association gradually arose in North America and that was between “Negro” and “slave”. Early legislation commonly referred to “negro and other slaves” or to “negro, mulatto, and Indian slaves”. Over the years “negro” and “black” both become synonymous with enslavement. In 1702 an observer wrote that wealth of Virginia consisted in “slaves or Negroes”

Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz  (Queen consort of the United Kingdom)
Queen Charlotte, wife of the English King George III and Queen Victoria’s grandmother, was directly descended from Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a black branch of the Portuguese Royal House. King George III was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. He was the last British monarch to rule over the American colonies. The city of Charlotte, North Carolina and its Mecklenburg County are named for Queen Charlotte.

Mauritania comes from the Latin name, derived from Maurus, meaning “dark-skinned” or Moor.

Morocco: The English name “Morocco” originates from Spanish “Marruecos” or the Portuguese “Marrocos”, from medieval Latin “Morroch”, from Amur N’Akush meaning Land of God. In Persian and Urdu, Morocco is still called “Marrakesh”. The word “Marrakesh” is derived from the Berber word combination Mur-Akuc (pronounced: Moor Akush). The Kingdom of Kush or Cush was an ancient African state centered on the confluences of the Blue Nile, White Nile and River Atbara in what is now the Republic of Sudan (also been referred to as “Nubia”, and as “Ethiopia” in ancient Greek and Greco-Roman records). Morocco is also tied to the Latin Maurus, meaning “dark-skinned” or Moor.

These regions are also known to be home of invaders into Eastern Europe from 711 to 1492 in what is now Spain and Portugal.


Also see link:
Santa Claus (“Saint Nicholas”) under fire over black faced helpers

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