Carnival of the Devil

Carnival of the Devil

January 2-8 in alternate years
The Carnival of the Devil, held every other year in Riosucio, Caldas, Colombia, is considered so important to Colombia's identity that it has been given official status as part of the nation's cultural heritage. At this unusual festival, a "good" devil is worshipped and celebrated with song and dance. Rather than a representation of absolute evil, he is a playful, happy figure, one who embodies human weaknesses and unsatisfied longings. During the festival, tributes are offered to this devil by artists, poets, writers, and other revelers.
The roots of this festival are very old. It was first officially held in 1847, when the towns of Quiebralomo and Montaña were combined. One of the most striking aspects of the festival is its blending of traditions from different cultures. The people of Quiebralomo had been celebrating the Christian festival of Epiphany, or the visit of the Three Wise Men to the infant Jesus, since the 16th century. Even in that celebration, European and African customs had been mixed. Elements from the ancient, native Indian cultures of Colombia were added when the two towns joined their celebrations. These include worship of the earth, the sun, and the jaguar. The slanted eyes and other features of the big cat (a sacred animal that represents the astral king) have been incorporated into many devil masks. Guarapo, a beverage made of fermented maize, is drunk from calabazos, or drinking vessels made from gourds.
The festivities begin when the devil takes his throne. Parades, fireworks, bullfights, crafts shows, and other amusements are ongoing, along with contemporary art and music performances by groups known as cuadrilas. Spectators and participants alike may dress in colorful devil costumes and masks, which are often painstakingly handcrafted. The costumed revelers represent the main demon's court of lesser devils. At the close of the Carnival, the devil makes a speech promising to return in two years, bringing his little demons back with him.
CONTACTS:
Tourism Promotion Fund of Colombia
Calle 69
No. 11-66
Bogota, Colombia
www.colombia.travel/en