Burning the Devil in Guatemala
Burning the Devil is an amazing celebration in La Antigua Guatemala that takes place every year on Dec. 7 at 6 p.m.
This tradition, over the years, involved burning paper trash – and a lot of firecrackers – in front of each house to scare away the evil spirits, “clean” the air and prepare for the Dec. 8 celebration of the Virgin of Conception. Admittedly, “cleaning” the air turned into a lot of smoke as families from the same block competed for the largest fire and the most firecrackers.
Antigueño Ángel Arturo González formed a committee at the Barrio de la Concepcion to celebrate this fabulous tradition in the early 1990s. With this, the competition subsided and we have been celebrating the Burning of the Devil there since!
To enhance the celebration, the committee prepares a life-size devil to be burned – usually by one of the talented artists who works on the Holy Week floats – and a political satirical sign goes with it.
Last year one of our most celebrated “devils” was a she — and taken to jail as too risqué (no blouse). The neighborhood got the U.N. and human rights groups involved as to the committee’s right to artistic freedom. Works from all over the world were cited where female figures had no blouses. Negotiations continued to get the devil out of “jail,” and a risqué blouse was added — looking like something out of Victoria’s Secret.
The controversy continued as the devil was blond AND, since our mayor is blond, it “must” have represented her. An in-depth study of Guatemala devils in dances and traditions confirms, however, that female (and some male) devils are blond, so that remained up in the air for further controversy.
Every year is a surprise! We will see what 2017 brings as to the devil and the satirical theme. The celebration, in true Guatemalan form, lasts a few days so come join the crowd! The entire neighborhood participates with music and great food. A formal bulletin is published and don’t forget to get to the barrio in time to hear the committee read the devil’s will.
Unique to Guatemala? Maybe so. While the celebration is found throughout the country, according to Guatemalan folklore expert Celso A. Lara Figueroa, this tradition goes back to colonial times when lanterns were made for certain celebrations throughout the year, including the night of the Virgin del Rosario and others. These “luminarias” finally turned into the celebration only for Dec. 7 to light the night before the celebration of the Virgin of Conception. With this, the Christmas cycle begins and runs through Candlemas Day, Feb. 2. It is always great fun where friends and family get together!
Revue article: GUATEMALA INSIGHT
by Elizabeth Bell, author/historian. AntiguaTours.net
More Information about, activities in La Antigua: facebook.com/comitedel.barriodelaconcepcion