Diablada Festivals

Diablada festivals are among the most widely recognized celebrations in Latin America. These celebrations feature several masked characters, most noticeably the diablos (devils). Festive devils dance, play, laugh at authority, provoke, and taunt spectators as multifaceted and resilient masked figures of Latin America’s past and present.

Diablada celebrations typically include music, dancing on the street, processions, and performances by traditional masked characters. Together, the Andean dramas with masked actors are occasions to act out historically inscribed ethnic and gender relations as well as opportunities to reinterpret social roles and ponder stereotypes.

The diabladas of the Andes have both European and pre-Columbian South American connections and origins, both conceptually and indesign. We find diablos in diverse representations throughout Latin America.


Niaguatá is in a coastal region of Venezuela. The population of Niaguatá preserves one of the richest cultural traditions of the nation. This creative “tiburón”(hammerhead shark painted with swirls) mask by José Betancourt captures the marine fauna of this coastal zone and includes traditional multicolor ribbons. It still represents a diablo nonetheless, showing the variety of shapes and creative interpretations the devils masks can take.Masked dancers often donned bells or jingles and carried whips (fuetes) as symbols of power. Curiously, the “devils” also carried Christian crosses around their necks as symbols of faith and devotion to the Sacrament and celebration of the triumph of Christianity over evil.

The terrifying masked carnival figure of the vejigante threatens passersby with inflated cow bladders (vejigas hinchadas), frightening and whipping children especially, and chasing cats and dogs. The vejigante sometimes emits horrible cries or bellows like a raging bull!These cardboard masks from Playa de Ponce in Puerto Rico resemble animal faces with impressive horns that often branch out in various directions.The vegigante mask featured here was made by Miguel “El Chino” Caraballo.

Photo by Leonardo Carrizo. Photographer Leonardo Carrizo showcases photographs of the Diablada de Píllaro, a six-day festival in the Ecuadorian province of Tungurahua. The photo exhibit narrates the participation of the Tunguipamba community in the Diablada de Píllaro of Ecuador.

Photo by Leonardo Carrizo.

A wide variety of materials are used in maskmaking: wood; clay; stone; leather (tanned hides as well as alligator and snakeskins); cloth; feathers; gourds; metal (copper, silver, gold, window screen, tin cans—the Dominican hojalata), aluminum foil; rope (raffia, jute, sisal); plaster; papier mache, cardboard; tree bark. At times, a mask will incorporate exotica such as turquoise, jade, onyx, horn, amber, ribbons, bells, mirrors, hair, lacquer, shells, copper, silver, gold, or even dried grasshoppers.

In 1987, Mark Gordon conducted field research on Caribbean mask-making traditions while pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts degree at OSU. For 100 days Gordon traveled throughout Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, documenting traditional horned paper masks used in Carnival, Independence Day, and regional festivals. Gordon’s research was inspired by the zoomorphic images embodied in horned masks. In 2020, Gordon donated his collection to Kawsay Ukhunchay, alongside a series of slide photographs documenting mask-making processes. Below are a selection of the slides, scanned and lightly color corrected for legibility.