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The Dancing Devils of Yare, Venezuela
May 31, 2018
One of the most spectacular and colourful festivals in Venezuela, the Dancing Devils of Yare dates back to 17549 and this year is held on May 31. Words by Mark Heath.
Every Corpus Christi the town of San Francisco de Yare in the Tuy valley in the State of Miranda, 70 km to the south of the capital Caracas, holds a festival that is famous throughout the country.
The residents of Yare dress in red — though in other places more harlequin-styled suits predominate — and wear horned masks to represent devils then come out to dance in a once-yearly ceremony. Others dress as fantastical creatures. There is actually a complex hierarchy. Generally, the more horns you have the greater the devil you are.
The devils first crawl to the church to do their penance. Once they have symbolically been forgiven the dancing begins to the rhythm of multiple drums and maracas. Some dancers also wear small bells that sound as they celebrate their new lease of life. From a solemn beginning, the atmosphere becomes one of a carnival or large street party.
When in Venezuela, why not try Margarita Island: Fading Grandeur, Fighting Back.
Yare itself is a small town and the Dancing Devils began here in 1749; however, not for some time did they win the approval of the church. There are actually eleven festivals, or brotherhoods, around the country, though women are increasingly participating in the celebrations. The one at Yare is the most famous and probably the better attended. All are recognised by UNESCO.
Corpus Christi, or ‘The Body of Christ’ was a Roman celebration of the Eucharist. It takes place on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. In 2018 this is May 31, in 2019 it will be June 20 and in 2020 June 11; however, the celebrations in Venezuela blend with elements that come from the African heritage of the nation.
Dancing devil and fantastical creature masks are often made from papier mache and then painted in bright colours. They are popular items in handicraft and souvenir shops in Caracas and outlying areas.
Currently only a few international flights to Caracas: American, Copa, Air Europa, Air Portugal and Air France. From Caracas you will need to take ground transportation. As Yare is a small place, probably the best way to do this is to hire a taxi for several hours and return to Caracas at the completion of the ceremony.
Another place to view the Dancing Devils is Naiguata on the coast about 90 minutes outside of Caracas, where there are hotels and guesthouses nearby in Macuto in Vargas State.
Click here for a video of the festival.
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