TITLE: Dancing Devil of Yare
TYPE: face mask
COUNTRY: Venezuela
DESCRIPTION: Diablo Danzante
MAKER: Manuel “El Mocho” Salvador Sanoja, San Francisco de Yare (1937-2010)
CEREMONY: Corpus Christi; other Catholic holidays
AGE: 1980s
MAIN MATERIAL: paper maché

The dancing devils of Yare are a fraternal order that dances on Corpus Christi and other holidays. When the tradition of dancing in devil costumes first began in San Francisco de Yare, the masks were monochromatic, made from cloth, and came in many forms.  These may date back to the 18th century.  Over time, the drab cloth masks were replaced with cheaper paper maché, and they began to be painted more colorfully to resemble animals, such as bulls, pigs, dogs, or demons. Before dancing, each devil makes a promise to the Church, but devils never enter the church building itself.  Instead, they hear mass outside the church and receive the Bishop’s blessing without entering.

The Dancing Devils Society is organized in a definite hierarchy, with the number of horns (cachos) representing the rank of the dancer.  Each wears a red suit with a crucifix or image of a saint, with a rosary on the belt, and carries rattles (maracas) or, in the case of the lead devil, one rattle looking like a devil’s head and a whip (látigo).  The First Devil (primer capataz) is the leader and has four horns.  The second and third devils (segundo and tercero capataz) have three horns.  Lesser devils (promeseros) have two horns.  All are male; females can participate, but they cannot wear masks.  Instead, they wear the red suit with a red kerchief on their heads.

This mask was made by the well-known dancer “El Mocho,” known as such for having lost four fingers on his left hand while setting off fireworks as a child.