I made my first visit to the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris the other day. It’s a great museum, but there was something in particular that fascinated me.
The marvellously creepy and colourful costumes shown above are used in the annual dance of the Diablada (dance of the devils), part of the Carnaval de Oruro, Oruro being a mining town in Bolivia. Christopher Isherwood who visited the town in the 1970s described the carnival as:
… a symbolic dance representing the victory of Good over Evil, the angels over the devils. The devils wear pink tights, red-and-white boots decorated with dragons and serpents, velvet capes sewn with silver thread, coins and bit of mirror. They have long flaxen wigs spreading over their shoulders. Their maks are terrifying – and curiously Tibetan: great horns, popping eyes, ferocious jagged teeth.
(Thanks to http://www.soundsandcolours.com for that quote).
During the dance Lucifer is accompanied by his demons, St Michael by his angelic companions, and they parade through the town to church, where devils and angels end up sitting by side.
The dance is said to date from the 18th century although it brings in elements from pre-Hispanic history. The country it originated in is disputed by Peru, Bolivia and Chile who all claim it as their own.
The Virgin of Socavón (patron saint of miners and Virgin of the Mineshaft) is an important part of the rituals of the Carnaval. She is said to have appeared in a silver mineshaft in Oruru in 1789 and it’s from that time on that she has been honoured – before the carnaval begins the miners of the town light candles and fireworks at her shrine.
The carnaval lasts for a lengthy 10 days every year leading up to Lent and presumably the angels and devils are danced out by the end of it!
The town of Oruro is situated about 230km south of La Paz in Bolivia (approximately four hours by bus) if you fancy joining in the celebrations.