Past midday on January 1st through 6th, thousands of devils with colorful, elaborate masks jump around shouting and groaning all the way from the surroundings of Píllaro to the city’s central park, in what is known as “la Diablada de Píllaro”. Accompanied by popular bands and fireworks, hundreds of devils frighten the curious public with whips and sometimes even dead or dried up animals.
Young, old, locals and foreigners join this peculiar tradition every year. It is believed that participating in the “Diablada de Píllaro” brings good luck. However, tradition also says that those who dress as devils have to do so for seven consecutive years if they want to keep their good fortune; otherwise, they will experience strange things…
The genuine masks of the “Diablos de Píllaro” are made of glued paper and usually have teeth and horns. Many of them use real horns and teeth from animals such as goats, dear, bulls or lamb. The devils also use capes and wigs.
Although devils are the main figures of this festivity, other characters include the “Cabecilla”, who is in charge of organizing his/her community; the “Capariche”, who leads the group sweeping the streets and the feet of the public with a broom; the “Líneas”, who are dressed in formal attire, representing the high class and dancing in couples; and the “Guarichas”, dressed in white with a net mask, a hat and carrying a doll. The “Guarichas”, dance around toasting with the public.
The origin of the “Diablada de Píllaro” is not certain. The city of Píllaro was the scene of several indigenous uprisings. In 1898, in a huge rebellion, the municipality was plundered and several documents were set on fire. Thus, much of the history of Píllaro was lost, and the origin of the “Diabladas” is only known through oral tradition.. there are several different versions.
Some say that the devil used to appear in Píllaro in the XVI Century. Others say that the festivity was taken from a religious procession of Mitimae origin in Bolivia, the “Diablada del Carnaval de Oruro”.
However, most believe that the Diablada del Píllaro is a rebellion of the lower class that began during a time of austerity, when the conquerors brought with them strict religious norms and beliefs. In the eyes of Catholic spaniards, the devil represented all evil and was the master of everything negative. Consequently, in a time of oppression and mistreatment, the serving class began dressing up as devils as a way to appropriate the personality of a character that was hated and discriminated- channeling their own feelings towards a society that continued to segregate them. This small revolution has now become an act of ingenuity, charisma and a bit of mischief.
The truth is that no matter the origin, this popular tradition continues to grow every year…
THE CITY OF PÍLLARO
Píllaro (pronounced ´PEE-yah-ro´) is a small city that stands about 19 km northeast of Ambato in the Tungurahua province. It is located at an altitude of 2.800 meters (9.200 ft) above sea level and has an average temperature of around 13º C 55 º F. It is an agricultural center, producing primarily cereals, potatoes, and fruit (mainly apples). It is also known as a center for wood-carving.