TITLE: Diablico Sucio Mask
TYPE: face mask
GENERAL REGION: Latin America
SUBREGION: Azuero Peninsula
DESCRIPTION: Traditional Diablico Sucio Mask
MAKER: Dario López (Parita, 1950- )
CEREMONY: Danza de los Diablicos Sucios (Corpus Christi)
FUNCTION: celebration; entertainment
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché
OTHER MATERIALS: oil-based paint; feather rachises; adhesive; cotton shoelaces
In the Azuero Peninsula and other parts of Panama, villagers perform several group dances before and during the celebration of Corpus Christi. The best known of these is the dance of the Diablicos Sucios (dirty little devils), men and boys dressed in striped costumes, wearing large, paper maché masks with bright headdresses of macaw feathers attached to a leather cone strapped to the back of the head. The costume is traditionally colored red and black, made from alternating stripes of achiote (annatto) and charcoal. The devils dance to the music of a guitar and they always carry castanets, a dried cow bladder, and a whip for striking the bladder (and fending off drunken revelers who might interfere with the dance). Generally, the dance first takes place in the street, from the church around the plaza, after which the dancers might appear in specific homes at the request of the resident for a private dance in exchange for food or money. The dancers sometimes chew on ginger to cleanse their bodies, but the appellation “dirty” comes from the foul smell of the cow bladder and the sweat from prolonged dancing in the tropical summer sun.
Other dances popular on Corpus Christi in the peninsula include the Diablicos Limpios (clean little devils), who wear flowers instead of feathers and dance with a waistband of colorful handkerchiefs to an orchestra of flute, accordion and triangle, and Diablicos Espejos (little devils with mirrors).
Modern masks tend to have a sculptured look; traditional masks like this one had a more abstract and stylized appearance.
For more on the folk masks of Panama, see Julio Arosemena Moreno, Danzas Folklóricas de la Villa de los Santos (Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panamá 1994).
Click above to watch a short documentary film about the diablicos sucios of Panama.