The new year arrives in Pillaro, a colorful city in the Tungurahua province of Ecuador, with devils dancing non-stop to a contagious rhythm throughout the week, calling out for renewal and purification of the soul.

People dressed as devils celebrate the new year in Pillaro, Ecuador, Jan. 2, 2018. | Photo: EFE

This is the “Diablada of Pillaro,” a celebration in which dancers become characters disguised in devil masks that, far from frightening, call out for participants to relish in the thousand-year-old tradition.

This one-week celebration began on Jan. 1 to the almost 30,000 visitors who arrived in this Andean city to celebrate the New Year’s event to dance with the devil.

“It is expected that 60,000 visitors attend the celebration every day,” Patricio Sarabia, Pillaro’s mayor, said.

“The Diablada of Pillaro is a celebration that has grown in the last decade. According to the story, in colonial times, Indians disguised themselves as devils in repudiation of priestly proselytization and the physical and moral mistreatment they received from the Spanish.”

Angel Velasco, a local artisan, recounted that he began with the trade of making devil’s masks 43 years ago and that he has perfected his technique with value outside the country.

The Diablada of Pillaro, besides being part of Ecuador’s intangible heritage, “is a time to enjoy. It is not a devil’s cult but a dance. It provides an overflowing joy because the devils will dance again when the new year arrives,” Velasco explained.

The devil masks are elaborate, in a meticulous way, and each of them can cost between US$60 and US$200, depending on the design.

Artists, politicians, academics and foreigners usually buy devil’s masks, which are often used to adorn homes and museums abroad.