The dancing devils
Normally, tranquility reigns in Naiguatá, a small fishing village about an hour’s drive from the Venezuelan capital Caracas. Once a year, on Corpus Christi, the inconspicuous nest transforms into a cauldron occupied by hundreds of devils.
On the morning of the 60th day after Easter Sunday, an army of devils moves up the hill where the church stands. The men and – less often – women hide their faces under colored wooden masks and sheets. Under constant screams and the sound of drums and rattles, they dance and whirl around. The details blur in a sea of red, yellow, and blue. Some hundreds meters from the church they fall to the ground and slide on their knees to the entrance of the building. The heat is murderous, 45 degrees in the shade. The human devils sweat like hell. The priest neglects the dancers the right to enter Gods house.
What is going on on the photographs?
The rite of the “Diablos Danzantes”, the Dancing Devils, has its origins in Corpus Christi, the day Christians around the world celebrate the real presence of the body and blood of Jesus Christ in bread and wine. The Spanish colonists in Venezuela celebrated the first Corpus Christi in 1582 in the then capital, Coro. Over time, the rite of Christian origin was mixed up with African dances and sounds. The ecclesiastical authorities forbade these “excesses” in larger cities. In some smaller villages of Venezuela like Naiguatá the tradition of the Dancing Devils lives on.