The brass band begins to play. For Ángel, this is the signal to put on his mask and start dancing. At this point he becomes the devil himself. “A total liberation. Your name, your soul, it all vanishes at that moment.”
Every year in the first week of January, the Ecuadorian town of Píllaro holds a colorful street festival: Diablada. Young men with frightening masks depict the devil and dance through the streets to brass band music. Ángel’s devil is fierce, fiery, and strong. But when he’s dancing, strolling, or hanging out with other revelers, he is a picture of innocence. Maybe the devil is a hidden shadow of himself?
It’s said that the demonic masks were once used to protect livestock and women from gangs of robbers. What exactly the festival means today can’t be explained to an outsider. “Immerse yourself,” says Ángel, “feel the adrenaline and see what we see when we drink and dance like devils.”