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The Dancing Devils of Yare

The Dancing Devils of Yare is a religious festival celebrated on the day of the Feast of Corpus Christi, in San Francisco de Yare, Miranda state. However it also incorporates elements from Venezuela’s African-descendent past, and the maracas used by the devils have an indigenous origin.

The tradition, passed on through the generations, goes back almost 400 years. The custom was at first rejected by church officials, then later tolerated, and eventually celebrated.

The devils have a hierarchy, represented by their masks and the number of horns they have, and on the Thursday of Corpus Christi, some men from Yare dress up in red costumes and the masks and perform a ritual dance, to local drum beats, in the streets of the town.

The devils then wage a battle with guardians, then surrender to the Eucharist and they fall to their knees in front of the church, where the priest blesses them. Music and dance continues, while those dressed as devils visit the houses of some past devils who have since passed away. Woman can dance too, but not in the street with the men.

There are similar such traditions in Naiguata and Chuao.

In 2002 the Venezuelan government declared the tradition national cultural heritage, and in 2008 it nominated it to UNESCO to be recognised as a World Heritage Site, for cultural reasons.

The final verdict will be given on tomorrow, December 5, at the World Heritage Committee meeting in France.

Published on Dec 4th 2012 at 9.36pm