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'Venezuelan dancing devils': personifying the evil to defeat it

Frightening 'devils' walk the streets of Naiguata, a coastal city in Venezuela, wearing colourful masks and costumes with belts laden with bunches of bells, for the famous Dancing Devils festival. This event, held every year on the Thursday of the feast of Corpus Christi, is a religious tradition recognised as Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. It is celebrated in 11 confraternities across the country and has its origins in the mixture of different religious traditions: that of the indigenous people, that of the African slaves and that of the Catholic Church brought by the Spanish colonisation. The aim of the festival is to pay promises to the Blessed Sacrament and to personify the devil in order to 'defeat it'. There is no distinction of age or sex, everyone dances in multicoloured costumes, striking wire and papier-mâché masks emulating sea or mountain animals, with giant teeth, horns or claws. Everyone participates in the ritual, from little Sara Rodríguez, 7, who is making her debut as a devil this year, to Henry González, who has been doing this for almost half a century.