Discover more from Pirate Wire Services
How the Devil brought peace to two Colombian villages: and inspired a party
More than a century ago, a legend managed to stop a war. Since then, a biannual festival has been held in the devil’s honor.
This week we bring to you a beautiful cultural photo essay with exclusive photos from our pirata Daniela, who is in the northwest of the country working on several stories. It is also our second installment on Wednesdays, which we hope is being more useful to keep you informed and helps us avoid the massive storm of Friday newsletters in your inbox.
Thanks for reading us and without further ado, onto the feature story
How the Devil brought peace to two Colombian villages
More than a century ago, a legend managed to stop a small war. Since then, a biannual festival has been held in the devil’s honor.
In what is now known as Riosucio, a small town in northwestern Colombia, there used to be not one town, but two. On one side was 'La Montaña', an indigenous village, and on the other 'Quiebraloma', of Afro-descendant inhabitants whose ancestors were former slaves. Both peoples lived in eternal dispute. But after an act of pacification in 1819, where they united both towns and created Riosucio as a sign of peace, the town became unique in its kind in Colombia, because thanks to this union they have two churches and two main parks. A detail without equal in the country.
This is thanks to the devil himself, who brokered peace, or at least that's how the legend goes, and the origin of the “devils festival" that celebrates the unification.
After more than a century of division and conflict, priests from each respective parish threatened residents with eternal damnation if violence continued. So an agreement was forged to share the territory, and the villagers created what they then called the Three Kings festival, to take place on the first days of the year.
Over the years however, this celebration evolved and the Devil himself became its main protagonist— a central figure of the celebration that reminds them of the destiny that awaits residents if they do not honor the peace accord: eternal damnation.
Drawing from the traditions of each village, the image of the devil is not purely Catholic, but rather mestizo, a mix of indigenous, African, and Spanish Catholic imagery, and the festival is heavily influenced by African ancestral and ceremonial dances, a blend which has birthed a festival rich in cultural syncretism.
But beyond its origin and historical value, this Carnival has an important political component. The carnival is the oldest in the country. From January 5 to 10, this year's festival featured the largest sculpture of the Devil ever built, a work which was dubbed 'His Majesty Sata'. The figure measured more than 6 meters in height and was designed by a local artist. Custom dictates that at the end of the Carnival the statue is burned, but sometimes if the sculpture is very popular, it is instead spared by residents, who burn a replica in its place— as was the case this year.
According to information from the Carnival Museum, located in the town, the only times that the Carnival has not been celebrated were during the Spanish flu pandemic, in the middle of the last century due to the bipartisan violence in Colombia and the last time, two years ago, due to the confinement by the COVID-19.
The festival encompasses concerts, nights lit up by fireworks, and numerous parades that draw on indigenous and Afro-Colombian traditions. Each has a costume theme, usually linked to the biodiversity of animal life in the area or the cultural origin of groups originally from Riosucio, but who have since migrated, and return for the festival to maintain their traditions.
One of these traditions involves the 'cuadrillas', a group of 12 people in costume, who go to various houses in the town to denounce a book of scrolls, which symbolize corruption and violence, and exalt nature.
The “nobodies”: dissidents of the festival turned heroes
In addition to the official traditions of the Devil’s Festival, the 'pariahs' of the town, the poor, the outcast, the marginalized, the misunderstood and even the town drunks stage a dissident and parallel celebration. For the last 35 years, headed by 'Beto', as they call the man who initiated the dissidents carnival, a female sculpture has been created by residents to go alongside the main star of the party: a figure they call La Diabla.
At every Carnival 'Beto' joins the marginalized in a party of their own, who this year, thanks to donations, built a sculpture approximately 4 meters tall. Everything in it is made independently, they dry the paint with a hair dryer and use local plants to create the hair.
According to a a resident close to Beto, the idea was inspired by the concept of 'los descamisados' - the urban workers who were key in the social struggles and transformations that accompanied the process of industrialization in Argentina and who supported Juan Perón, founder of Peronism, one of the most important popular leftist movements in the country.
Although initially most of the villagers thought the ‘festival of the dissidents’ was “disrespectful” and disparaged the parallel Carnival, over the years Beto, his devil and his friends, have earned an honored place in the festivities. So much so that at the end of the celebration, when the official Diablo is burned, his female counterpart, created by the “nobodies” is then burned as well. With the passage of time those who attend have come to applaud and cheer the ceremony, viewing her participation as a critical component.
The return of the festival this year was crucial for the economy of Riosucio. Despite being an agricultural and coffee region, the town relies strongly on the festival, which drew roughly 100,000 people, to make ends meet.
Perhaps in part for this reason the natives of this town have constructed an identity based on this tradition. They all know from beginning to end the songs that are sung in the streets during Carnival, and insist on teaching them to visitors who come to their homeland for the Carnival del Diabo.
And so as the festival closed, thousands of us marched through its streets singing the chorus: "Guard, guard the pleasures of life. Hail, hail, hail, peerless Carnival".
The Big Headlines in LATAM
In Colombia, the Minister of Defense, Iván Velásquez, was accused by the Attorney General's Office of Guatemala of corruption, via the approval of agreements with Odebrecht executives. Velásquez was the UN liaison for the International Commission Against Impunity (Cicig) in Guatemala between 2013 and 2017. His work is recognized because during these years dozens of corruption structures operating within government institutions were dismantled. Most experts suggest that these accusations are a retaliation for his investigations, which jailed members of some of the wealthiest and most powerful families in Guatemala.
Colombian president Gustavo Petro publicly replied that the charges are “fabricated” and based on “vengeance”, clarifying that Colombia will not honor any arrest warrants from Guatemala.
Thousands of protesters from all over Peru have arrived in Lima ahead of mass demonstrations set to begin today. On Sunday, the government declared a state of emergency in Lima for a month, granting special powers to police, who have set up checkpoints on major highways to prevent the entry of more caravans. Protesters are calling for new elections for both Congress and president Boluarte. We explained how the country erupted into rebellion last week, as well as made some predictions about what is likely to happen next.
Authorities in Brazil ordered the arrest of several officials related to the occupation of several government buildings by supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia. Among the arrest warrants ordered is one for the former Minister of Justice in the Bolsonaro government, Anderson Torres.
Spanish word of the week:
This weeks Spanish word is one you have probably heard before: Maldito/Maldita
Ese maldito perro no deja de ladrar- That goddamn dog won’t stop barking
It means, “damn”, in Spanish slang, or sometimes something stronger depending on context.
Odio mis malditos vecinos, son pendejos- I hate my fucking neighbors, they’re idiots.
If you’re reading us, you are likely already aware of the word and its usage, but what you might not be aware of are the origins of the word. It comes from maldición - a curse, or a damnation.
“Malditos” were originally those who were cursed, or who were destined to burn in the fiery pits of hell. So be aware, that when you call someone “maldito”, you are not just cursing them with black magic, you are condemning them to an eternity of burning, suffering and torture.
Seems a lot stronger when thought of like that right?