The Little Devils of Teguise (los diabletes) are one of the most enchanting images of a popular tradition which came to life in Teguise around the end of the 15th Century. The melding of aboriginal and Christian beliefs with the superstitious practices of the first Moorish and African slaves to this area, gave form to the figure of the little devil, incarnated as a he-goat, symbol of virility and fecundity.

 

The dance of the devils, as interpreted by the shepherds, was originally held on the nights between Christmas and Epiphany with special emphasis on New Year's Eve. As well, the Roman Saturnalias took place from December 17th to 23rd, in honour of Bacchus. However, all festivals and pagan rituals of that period were later Christianised to become the Mass of The Light that took place in the early morning hours as a triumph over darkness.

Teguise, the first capital after colonization of the Canary Islands, was a major cultural influence throughout the archipelago for almost the entire 15th Century and was popularised in the songs and ballads of the time, long before the reign of Granada.

The shepherds, who years before had danced in the "Big City" with their weathered horns, now returned as slaves and servants to dance for Corpus Christi dressed as devils. On this day, the streets of Teguise were decked out in their finest regalia for the procession. Together with the Saint were judges, governors, regiments and scribes, but leading everyone were the devils and drummers.

The birth of Felipe II in the 16th Century, saw a redoubling of the festivities for Corpus Christi with the addition of wrestling and horses. And in the 17th Century the much appreciated devils' costumes were made of goat skin, which were tanned with lard and fat. Farmers and goatherds obtained the money needed to participate from their masters. Later, the Teguise town council assumed the responsibility not just to buy the costumes for the devils but also to pay those who danced and played the drums, according to the town's ledgers. The amount given to each one was half a real. This dance tradition changed over time to other dates and turned into the Carnival celebration of today.

Sra. Rosalia Spínola Aldana, wife of the famous Dr. Alfonso Spínola, gave the mask a new form: it was no longer the he-goat, but a bull with tongue and horns. The skin gave way to canvas or muslin pants and jacket, painted with red and black diamonds and covered with bells. A shepherd's pouch made of kid attached to a stick by a cord was used to scare the youngsters. But, despite these changes, its origins in the shepherds' dances remained evident. However, it was Eliseo Diaz who perfected the mask. Many in Teguise recall the horror that Miguel Callero suffered when Eliseo Diaz used one of his masks at the carnaval giving poor Miguel such a scare that he went running through the streets screaming that he had seen the devil in person.

The Cabrera brothers continued the tradition of mask making using moulds made with earth from La Mareta.

 
Escudo Teguise

Courtesy of:
Teguise Town Hall
Department of Culture
Franciso Hernández Delgado
(Cultural Information)

For more information: EMAIL

  
 


Los Diabletes
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