Venezuela’s Dancing Devils of Corpus Christi
Inscribed in 2012 (7.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
Country(ies): Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)
- Venezuela’s Dancing Devils of Corpus Christi
- © (2006) Fundación Centro de la Diversidad Cultural
The small communities along the central coastal region of Venezuela have a special way to celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, an annual Roman Catholic holiday commemorating the presence of Christ in the Sacrament. Groups of adults, young men and children disguised as masked devils dance backwards in penitence as an official of the Catholic Church carries forth the Blessed Sacrament. String and percussion instruments provide musical accompaniment and worshippers carry maracas to ward off evil spirits. At the climax of the celebration the devils surrender to the Sacrament, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. The dancers or promeseros (promise-keepers) are lifelong members of a confraternity that transmit the historical memory and ancestral traditions. Each confraternity crafts its own devil masks, which are worn with crosses, scapulars and blessed palm leaves. Dancers also use bells, handkerchiefs and strips of ribbon as protection from evil spirits. Women oversee the spiritual preparation of children, organize the stages of the ritual, prepare food, provide support for the dances, and raise altars along the procession route; in recent years, some communities have begun to welcome them as dancers. The practice is steeped in creativity, organization and faith, and promotes a strong sense of communal and cultural identity.
Decision 7.COM 11.35
The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:
- R.1: The Dancing Devils of Corpus Christi and particularly the confraternities responsible for the celebration are keys to the social cohesion of their communities and for the transmission of memory and traditions as well as for community development;
- R.2: Inscription of the Dancing Devils on the Representative List could contribute to promoting awareness of the significance of the intangible cultural heritage while encouraging intercultural dialogue among bearers of similar heritage elsewhere in Latin America and the Caribbean and showcasing cultural diversity and human creativity;
- R.3: A comprehensive programme involving both the confraternities and governmental agencies comprises safeguarding measures such as encounters on the modes of transmission or the balance between traditional forms and innovation, updating inventories, workshops on manufacturing musical instruments and measures aimed at ensuring that communities are the primary beneficiaries of any related commercial activity;
- R.4: Local and national associations and confraternities of Dancing Devils have participated actively in preparing and elaborating the nomination at all stages and have provided their free, prior and informed consent;
- R.5: The Dancing Devils of Corpus Christi are included in the first Register of Venezuelan Intangible Cultural Heritage and in several catalogues issued by the Institute of Cultural Heritage, developed with the participation of masters and cultural promoters from each locality who collect, provide and validate the information contained in the inventory;
Inscribes Venezuela’s Dancing Devils of Corpus Christi on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.