Migrants, Multiculture

Dancing with devils

A lecture providing an in-depth look at the Oruro Carnival tradition in Bolivia – declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage by Unesco.


For the past 2000 years, Bolivia has celebrated the Oruro Carnival. The festival includes more than 48 folk groups who perform 18 different dances and make their pilgrimage to the “Santuario del Sovacón” (Sanctuary of the Mineshaft) every Saturday during Carnival.

One of the most outstanding, colourful and extraordinary parts of the Carnival is the “Diablada.” This is a dance where the performers wear costumes resembling the devil and represent the battle between the forces of good and evil.

The ritual dance begins with Lucifer, Satan and devils who are followed by the seven deadly sins: pride, greed, lust, wrath, gluttony, envy and sloth, all lead by St Michael the Archangel.

This ritual dance brings together elements of ancient Andean rites with the Catholic traditions introduced during the Spanish conquest. The result is a spectacular dance which is performed in squares and streets throughout the city.

Film director and dancer, Ximena Cordova, had the opportunity to participate and perform in the 2008 Oruro Carnival as part of her field work for her doctorate.  She was able to experience first hand the spiritual and physical ritual that precedes the performance and interpreted the dance of the devil before the “Virgen de la Candelaria de Sovacón”, the patron saint of miners.

Cordova will offer a talk relating her experience as a Carnival dancer and will comment on the documentary that she also filmed during the festival which will be screened for those present.

The lecture will take place on the 28th June at 12.30, Newcastle University, Daysh Building, Claremont Road.

For more details please go to: http://www.vamosfestival.com/programme/2012/dancing-with-the-devils-at-the-oruro-carnival-bolivia.

(Translated by Rebecca Hayhurst)

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