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The Diablada or Danza de Diablos is a traditional South American dance that was created in the Andean Altiplano as a result of the introduction of the Autos Sacramentales, a dramatic representation of the mystery of the Eucharist, in the Viceroyalty of Peru by missionaries from Spain in the XVI century. The dance is a mixture of the Spaniard's theatrical presentations and Andean rituals such as the llama llama dance in honor of the Uru god Tiw and the Aymaran miner's ritual of the Danza del Anchanchu. Practised throughout the Andean region, the Diablada is an important part of the cultural festivities of the nations of Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. The dance stands prominent during the Fiesta de la Candelaria in Peru, the Carnaval de Oruro in Bolivia, and the Fiesta de la Tirana in Chile. However, other variations of the dance are also practiced in Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama, and in various parts of Peru.

The origin of the Diablada is a matter of dispute. The oldest Diablada recorded took place in 1576 with the native Lupakas people of Juli, a city nicknamed as the "Aymaran Rome" which is located near Lake Titicaca in the altiplano of present-day Puno, Peru; and from there it allegedly spread to other parts of the Spanish domain in the Americas. Nonetheless, it is also believed that the dance could have had its beginnings in the area of modern-day Bolivia, such as in the city of Potosi, back then a miner's settlement in the Viceroyalty of Peru, from where it later spread to Oruro and other parts of the Altiplano. Another proposal is that the dance originated in Oruro, and that it has Uru roots from the religious ritual of the "Ito Festival." During the evangelism of the natives, the missionaries instilled the Christian paradigm of good and evil by teaching them their theatrical dance which was a representation of the seven deadly sins that concluded with the victory of the angels over the demons (which is how the costumes of angels and demons became associated with the dance). Ultimately, the result was a fusion between Spanish and Aymaran culture in the altiplano as the original dance taught by the Jesuit missionaries adopted Andean elements.

The Diablada' represents a mixture between Christianity and Aymara religion that goes as far back as 1538, where in the mines of Aullagas (in northern Potosi) the natives adopted Christian religious figures and adapted them to their indigenous religious visions. The dance eventually became part of a series of Christian religious festivities, most prominently during the celebrations to the Virgin of Candelaria (also known as the Virgin of Socavon). These Christian rituals replaced the old Andean beliefs and mythology, and the festivities changed from honoring what were considered "pagan" gods to that of honoring Christian saints and God. Over the years, the Diablada has developed uniquely in various regions of South America, which has led to variations such as the Afro-Peruvian Son de los Diablos, the Diablada Punena, and the Diablada of Oruro.


From Spain to the New World

The Diablada has its roots in the medieval Auto Sacramental dances of El Balls des Diables and Els Sets Pecats Capitals, which originated in the region of Catalonia in Spain.

Native American influence

Julia Elena Fortun explains that the Auto Sacramental dances of Spain merged with the Andean mythologies like Tiwo, Wari, and Supay (the lord of the interior highlands) in order to form the Diablada. According to the UNESCO, the dance derives from the traditional Andean dance of the Llama Llama in worship of the Uru god Tiw.

Birthplace theories

There are different theories surrounding as to where the first Diablada originated.

Historian Mercedes Serna explains that as soon as the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire was achieved, there was a sudden increase in the amount of Autos Sacramentales presented in the Spanish colonies. Jose Miguel Oviedo records that by the year 1560 contests were held for religious theatrical presentations. Records show that the first Diablada took place in 1576 on Juli, Puno, in the area of present-day Peru, as a result of Spanish Jesuit missionaries presenting the Autos Sacramentales to the native Lupakas population of the area.

In his book Comentarios Reales de los Incas, the chronologist Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, a direct blood descendant of Inca royalty, comments on this event and explains that the Spanish Jesuit missionaries taught the Native Americans of Juli sections of the Book of Genesis through an Auto Sacramental comedy that was written in Aymara. Garcilaso de la Vega further remarks that the indigenous people of Juli learned and presented their version of the dance to the priests and, later, presented a dialogue to the rest of the Spanish population in such a way that it changed the opinion that up to that point had regarded the natives as being dumb, rude, or incapable.

Expansion and formalization

The success of this method resulted in the expansion of the Diablada to other areas of the Altiplano, including Oruro in Bolivia. However, the Diablada would not formally take role in any major celebration until 1892 when the Sicuris of the Barrio Manazo officialized the dance as part of the devotion practices for the Virgin of Candelaria. According to Bolivian historian Julia Elena Fortun, in 1904 the Diablada was formalized in Oruro as part of its festivities in the Carnaval de Oruro.

21st Century

In 2009, Bolivia claimed sole ownership of the dance and all its elements, but this claim has been a matter of dispute with Peru which claims the dance to be of the cultural heritage of all nations who hold Aymara culture.


In its original form, the dance was performed to accompany a band of Sikuris, which were a group of musicians playing the Siku. Nowadays, the Diablada in the Altiplano is accompanied by band and orchestra.

The uniformity of the suits brought choreographic innovation, with the layout of steps, movements, and figure designs that are not only ready to be staged in open areas such as roads, streets, and public squares; but also in places such as theaters and arenas.

At the start of the krewe are Lucifer and Satan with several China Supay, or devil women. They are followed by the personified seven deadly sins of pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. Afterwards, a troop of devils come out. They are all led by Saint Michael, with a blouse, short skirt, sword, and shield.

During the dance, angels and demons are constantly moving around while forming somewhat complex figures such as crosses and circles. This confrontation between the two sides is eclipsed when Saint Michael appears, battles, and defeats the Devil. Both characters are dressed in heavy costumes that are highly ornate and finely wrought. The weight of the costume is more of a challenge than an obstable for the different dance groups. The dancers often attempt to make unique and complex choreographies. The result is a colorful dance, creating a show very much appreciated by the public.

The choreographed dance includes the following figures:

Part One

The Invasion and Walk of the Devil; the Greeting; the Multitude of Dancers

Part Two

The Story of the Dance of the Diablada; the Star.

Part Three

The Blades; the Trident; the Clover; the Chain of Three; the Step of the Devil; the Entangle; the Mecapaquena.


Three legends are linked to the devotions that currently celebrate the Diablada.

In Puno, a legend tells that in 1675, near the mine Laikakota a league of the city, the Spanish Jose Salcedo ordered to destroy the houses of the miners but decided that Mary saw battling evil. Observed by fire in the mine was born the cult of the Virgin of Candelaria.

In Oruro, a legend tells that occurs mid-seventeenth century the collapse of a mine and that miners invoke the Virgin of Candelaria who saves you the Supay take them to their domains.

In 1789, Chiru Chiru was a thief who stole for the poor. When he died at his home found an image of the Virgin Mary. This legend has another version: Carlos Borromeo Mantilla priest hears the confession of Anselm Belardino nicknamed Nina Nina and devotee of the Virgin of Candelaria who confessed to having abducted Lorenza Chuquiamo. The confession states that he was rescued by a young woman who lit two candles on top of Cerro Pie de Gallo.

Regional variations

La Tirana


According to the UNESCO, in its Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity award to the Carnaval de Oruro, the Diablada became the main dance of the traditional Bolivian carnival.


The Diablada Punena originated when the Lupakas people presented their version of the Autos Sacramentales which, according to Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, included sections of the Book of Genesis in the Aymara language taught by the Spanish Jesuit priests in 1576 in the city of Juli in present-day Peru. Nonetheless, the dance holds Native American roots from the Danza del Anchanchu, a pre-Hispanic miner's ritual, and the Aymaran narrative of the Myth of the Supaya. The dance's association with the cult of the Virgin of Candelaria stems from a popular legend that tells that in 1675, in the mine of Laikakota (located near Puno), a Spaniard by the name of Jose Salcedo changed his decision to destroy the miner's houses because he saw a fire coming out of the mine as a result of the Virgin Mary fighting the Devil inside the mine.

According to historian Enrique Cuentas Ormachea, until 1965 the Diablada Punena was very different from the Diablada of Oruro, and the influences from Oruro began in 1918 when the group Los Vaporinos (formed by workers from the Peruvian Corp that worked in Lake Titicaca) began to dance in the Fiesta de la Candelaria with costumes and bands from Bolivia. Despite this, the other groups from Puno continued performing the dance in their traditional groupings of Sicu-Morenos, and in 1922 Los Vaporinos decided to return to the traditional performance as well. Nowadays, the dance still maintains its differences from the Diablada of Oruro.

Since its beginnings, the performance had a variety of changes. Originally the masks were made from plaster and the hair from baize (a coarse woollen cloth). Overtime, the mask models were influenced by Tibetan masks as well as elements from Native American cultures such as Sechin, Chavin, Nazca, and Mochica. These masks were traditionally made by each dancer or bought Tibetan-styled masks from a Bolivian mask-maker named Antonio Vizacarra, but in 1956 the brothers Alberto and Ramon Velasquez established a workshop in Puno where masks were created and sold for the event. Also, the Diablada was at first small and reserved for important religious dates in the Catholic Church. As the dance further developed, the devil dancers began to accompany groups of Sikuris, which are an assemblage of musicians that play the Siku (the traditional Andean panpipe). Among the first Sikuris that surged at this point were those of the Barrio Manazo (1892) and Juventud Obrera (1909). Nonetheless, anthropologist Jose Maria Arguedas explains that eventually the role of the Sikuris was minimized to the point that they began to accompany the devil dancers under the new name of Sicu-Morenos. The Sicu-Morenos play with sicus, bombos, snare drums, cymbals, and triangles; and they dance Huaynos while accompanied by characters such as Caporales, minor devils, Chinas Diablas, the old man, the big-lipped negro, the Apache, the lion, the bat, the condor, the bear, the gorilla, and the giraffe (among others). These characters, along with the central performance of the devil dancers and the archangel Saint Michael, make the Diablada Punena one of the most colorful and unique dances in the Fiesta de la Candelaria.

Related dances

Danza de Diablitos

Danza de Los Diablos de Cajabamba

Son de los Diablos

The Son de los Diablos is an Afro-Peruvian dance that developed as a mixture between African, Spanish, and Native American rhythms. Nicomedes Santa Cruz explains that, despite popular opinion, the Son de los Diablos has no links with African rituals or with the Andean Morenada, but rather it is more likely related to the Diabladas of Oruro. Much like the Diablada, the Son de los Diablos was heavily influenced by the Spanish Corpus Christi celebrations, it was predominantly practiced by an ethnic community (in this case the Afro-Peruvian community), and it was banned from religious celebrations by the Catholic Church in 1817. Nonetheless, the dance would remain an important part of carnival celebrations in Lima up until the early 20th century. The dance would gain a revival in the 1950s when Jose Durand used Pancho Fierro's depictions of the dance and the information provided by old Son de los Diablos dancers in order to once again bring the dance back to life.


2009 Miss universe dispute

In August 1 of 2009 Bolivian officials stated that it could present a legal appeal to the organizers of Miss Universe due to the planned use of a typical Diablada wear by the Peruvian candidate Karen Schwarz. Pablo Groux, Bolivian minister of Culture, said that any use of the wear by Scharwz in the content would be an unlawful appropriation of Bolivian heritage and have menaced to bring the case to the International Court of Justice. El Comercio, a Peruvian newspaper, have mentioned that this is not the first time the diablada wear is shown in the contest and that it was Maria Josefa Isensee, a Chilean, that first used it in the Miss Universe contest. Peruvian foreign minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde said that since the Diablada dress is of indigenous Aymara origin it can not be considered an exclusive of any of the particular countries where the Aymara live.

The problem further continued even after the end of the Miss Universe 2009 contest when Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, invited Karen Schwarz to dance the Diablada in the Carnaval de Oruro and afterwards asked if "the ladies of Oruro would get jealous" of Schwarz's invitation. In response, Schwarz expressed her disagreement with the way Morales was acting, particularly due to his status as president of a nation, and declined the invitation on the grounds that she would be spending that time dancing the Diablada in the Fiesta de la Candelaria in Puno.

Bolivia's demand

In 2009, Bolivia began a propaganda campaign in which the government of Bolivia wished to demonstrate and advertise the people that the Diablada was a Bolivian dance native to Oruro. This campaign was carried out through television stations such as CNN and Telesur. Bolivia claims that UNESCO recognizes the Diablada as a Bolivian dance. After the events at Miss Universe 2009, Bolivia claims that its ambassador in France gathered with the UNESCO assistant director Marcio Barbossa, whom allegedly expressed his solidarity with Bolivia on this issue. In response, the Permanent Delegation of Peru to the UNESCO sent a communicate expressing their inconformity. However, UNESCO has not made any official notification on the matter, but instead have stated on their description of the Carnaval de Oruro that it has a common origin with Peru's Fiesta de la Candelaria

See also

Diablada Punena

Fiesta de la Candelaria

Carnaval de Oruro

Fiesta de La Tirana

Brazilian Carnival

External links

Cultures Ministry of Bolivia

Folklore's Group Association - Oruro

National Culture Institute - Peru

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Diablada

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