A very successful 8th Devils and Congos Festival

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On Saturday, February 16, the Devils and Congos Festival was held in Portobelo.

Special guests, media and the general public gathered at this event, which began with the inauguration of the international exhibition titled "Devils of the Americas" on the second floor of the Royal Customs Office of Portobelo, to remain open until March 7.

The event was organized by the Portobelo Foundation, Ganexa University of Art and Cultural Heritage Preservation Group, which thanked the Panama Tourism Authority, Secretariat of the Black Race and National Cultural Institute of Heritage for their support, since they helped make possible the 8th Festival of Devils and Congos, turning Portobelo into a meeting place.


Here is a brief sampling of what you can find at the international exhibition of "Devils of the Americas", representing the cultural traditions of 7 Latin American countries.


Mexico - Devils of Costa Chica Game in Oaxaca

The game of the Devils of Costa Chica is played during the celebration of the Day of the Dead. The devils start their tour from the pantheon (centennial park) and bring the dead to the town to visit their relatives. A group of 24 dancers in two columns perform the dance. There is a Diablo Mayor or The Old Man and his wife La Minga or The Old Woman, mother of the devils. She dances with The Old Man, her children the devils or people from the audience, with whom she is provocative and flirtatious. The themes of death and time are alluded to in the dance, and the dancers don masks and costumes to appropriately represent their roles.


Colombia - Devils of the Carnival of Blacks and Whites in Pasto, Nariño

On New Year's Eve in the city of San Juan de Pasto, as a prelude to the beginning of the grand Carnival of Blacks and Whites, the streets are filled with human-sized rag dolls stuffed with old clothes, sawdust or paper. These dolls symbolize the previous year, and in an environment ripe for the expression of satire, irony, criticism and mocking, they are burned to bid farewell to the old year. The puppets of the old year in Pasto are often political parodies, and they represent the citizen's silent dissatisfaction all year with the events that took place, while also showing a city full of dreams.


Colombia - Devils of the Carnival in Riosucio, Caldas

Colombia has an abundance of festivals, celebrating over 3,000 annually, which is the product of the cultural syncretism of its indigenous, African and European roots. As such, a variety of devils appear and reappear in Colombian culture. A highlight is the Carnival at Riosucio, where his majesty the devil reigns over seven nonstop days of debauchery.


Dominican Republic - Lame Devils

The devil played an important role in the religious plays that were performed around Easter during the Middle Ages in Spain. In these dramas, the devil represented evil, and was symbolically always defeated by good. The Lame Devil, crippled from having fallen from abuse by the slave-master, in the Dominican Republic is not actually the typical evil devil that scares people or tempts them to sin. On the contrary, he is humorous and mischievous, and brings with him excitement, dancing and joy.


Panama - Clean Devils in the Villa de Los Santos

Corpus Christi has been celebrated in the Villa de Los Santos since the early colonial era. The undoubtedly traditional presence of devils in these religious ceremonies is based on a foundation of the Catholic catechism that states: “The Devil is what drives the celebration, but the cross is what protects the world.”

Given this premise, pantomimic forms of devils were derived, which we now know as the Dirty Devils. Another representation is the dialogue called the Dance of the Great Devil, which is a parade of devils, led by the chief (El Diablo Mayor), his son (Diablo Caracolito) the Captain and even a She-Devil. They command the forces of evil and fight against Archangel Michael for a soul in purgatory.

The good side fights by using dialogue and dances, and finally the cross triumphs over the evildoer. The Villa de Los Santos preserves anthropomorphic characteristics in its devil masks, as opposed to the zoomorphic masks worn in other regions.


Costa Rica - Little Devils' Game in Boruca

The Little Devils' Game, Cabrú˘ rójc in the Brunka language, is the most representative aspect of the indigenous Brunka culture and identity in Boruca and Rey Curré. In the form of drama, the Little Devils' Game represents a historical episode: the fight to the death between the Spanish invaders and the indigenous community. It also symbolizes the community's constant effort to defend their traditions, customs, beliefs and languages.


Bolivia - Devil Dance in Oruro

The Diablada is a primitive dance traditional to Oruro in Bolivia, where the dancers wear a devil mask and costume. It is the most representative dance in the Carnival in Oruro. The dance also represents the battle between the forces of good and evil.


Puerto Rico - The Vejigante Devil

Masks are an integral part of religious festivals in Puerto Rico, especially those held on the coastal villages of the island. Dressed as a clown, the vejigante, derived from the Spanish word for bladder, wildly flails these inflated organs (or just balloons) to ward off the evil spirits. In general he behaves disorderly, shouting and running through the streets, and flapping his arms as if he were to fly.

To discover more about the cultural legacy of these and other fiendish festivals, we invite you to visit the International Exhibition "Devils of the Americas" in Portobelo.