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.
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.