24 Sep

The “Diablada” dance of Puno is declared Cultural Heritage of the Nation

The dance called “Diablada” of Puno is actually a mestizo dance, linked to the festive world of the Peruvian Altiplano. 

This type of dance is also known as “dance in costume of lights” and it is a collective composition performed by groups of devils, forming rows and led by an angel or archangel. 

The dance is very special because of the characterisation of the dancers -through their masks and clothing- in an allegory to the devil or demon, an archetypal character of the Catholic religious imaginary introduced to the New World with the evangelisation.

Although the use of masks and allegorical costumes in popular dances was initially understood as an expression of excess that the Church and the viceregal authorities tried to eradicate, the practice ended up being accepted as a valid expression of celebrating the Christian faith, typical of the Andean ritual universe.

This dance expresses the splendour, splurge and exuberance of the festive universe of the Puno city. Nowadays, this dance is associated with a series of religious festivities and folkloric competitions that take place in various regions of the country, especially during the celebration of the Feast of the Virgen de la Candelaria, patron saint of the City of Lake Titicaca. 

The origin of the dance is associated with the early process of conversion to Catholicism, when Catholic missionaries introduced a practice typical of popular European rituals: the so-called autos sacramentales, dramatised representations which, for didactic and pastoral purposes, presented to the Andean neophytes the confrontation between divine grace and sin (“the struggle between good and evil”), a confrontation incarnated by devils and angels, archetypal characters of Christian doctrine that ended up being appropriated and resemanticised by the indigenous parishioners. 

Both the “loose” devil, a strident and unrestrained character, and the hierarchically represented groups of devils and angels “escaped” from the liturgical drama and continued their performance in the processions that travelled through highland villages during the various religious festivals

Since the end of the 19th century, the sources note the presence of dancers in devil costumes in the groups of sicuris and morenos or morenadas, who went around participating in various celebrations, such as the Candelaria festivity in the city of Puno or the feast of San Pedro and San Pablo in the town of Ichu. Today this dance is one of the most colourful in Puno, a city that is considered the “Capital of Peruvian Folklore”.
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