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
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.