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Dance of the Great Devil of Chepo


[This picture shows the Great Devil and two of his minions]

This picture shows the Great Devil and two of his minions


[A close-up of the Great Devil's mask. Tradition dictates that it must feature a very long tongue.]

A close-up of the Great Devil's mask. Tradition dictates that it must feature a very long tongue.


[Mask of the Pig's Snout Devil, one of the minions of the Great Devil.]

Mask of the Pig's Snout Devil, one of the minions of the Great Devil.


[This is the mask of another of the minion devils.]

This is the mask of another of the minion devils.


[The devils wear colored handkerchieves and jingle bells.]

The devils wear colored handkerchieves and jingle bells.


[The socks and shoes of the devils are decorated with ribbons and mirrors.]

The socks and shoes of the devils are decorated with ribbons and mirrors.


[This crown is part of the elements worn by the Great Devil. It is a separate piece that gets put on top of the mask during a ceremony that is part of the dance.]

This crown is part of the elements worn by the Great Devil. It is a separate piece that gets put on top of the mask during a ceremony that is part of the dance.


[A yellow vest is worn only by the Great Devil. On the chest, devils wear four mirrors, representing the four cardinal points.]

A yellow vest is worn only by the Great Devil. On the chest, devils wear four mirrors, representing the four cardinal points.


By:

Marino Jaén Espinosa
2013-04-03

At this time, this may be the only article and the only set of pictures of the Dance of the Great Devil of Chepo on the internet. This dance was almost lost at the end of the 20th Century. However, a group of students from the University of Panama rescued it as an academic project during the first decade of the 21st Century.

Years later, the dance was learned by a group of local youngsters who have kept it alive until today. This article and its pictures are the result of an interview conducted with the coordinators of this youth group.

At Chepo, the devil's masks tend to be shaped as animals' heads. An exception is the one representing the Great Devil. In addition to this leading figure, there are eight other devils who are minions of the Great Devil. Finally, the two remaining characters are a Soul and an Angel.

As it happens to other devil dances, the Chepo one is performed mainly for the Corpus Christi Festivity. It dates back to Spanish Colonial times. Then, it was used as a religion-teaching tool for converting the natives into Cristianism. Today, it is an important part of Panama's cultural heritage.


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