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THE DEVIL'S
LAST
DANCE

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THE DEVIL'S LAST DANCE

The Diablada is something like an authentic hell of movements, music and general rejoicing, in which bands made up of dozens of dancers

The festival of the Virgen de la Candelaria is the most important holiday in the highlands. Thousands of mestizos of origin aymara dance, pray and offer toasts, in honor of the miraculous "Mamita" that for almost four centuries has blest the city of Puno.

The celebration is a spectacular rosary of folk dances, especially, the Diablada that symbolizes the victory of good over evil.

He loses his posture and musical notes while at the same time continuing down the street, in pilgrimage, in the night celebration, hopping and as if performng for the first time acrobatic dancing steps with his unusual and brilliant dance partner: a trombone which he hugs as if it were a sensual "geisha" while whispering in her ear sweet words or obscenities capable of unbalancing next to them the selfsame demon who is offering a swig to an obese, hairy and a not very well maintained polar bear.

Cheers!, the devil spits with his penetrating encouragement of sulfur. "Bottoms up", grunts the polar bear that has put his eye on a dark-skinned girl, in a scandalous miniskirt who moves her waist with strong sensuality. "Shall we dance again?* asks the man that lost his posture and his partners in the orchestra propose "Magisterial Puno" they roll over in laughter, because the trombone - offended and resentful as a young lady - didn't accept the romantic proposal.

"You forgot the slap", they make fun of him, ridiculing him, poking fun at their colleague the musicians of the band " Juventud Príncipe"; and the boys of the "Espectacular Unión" they celebrate the rebuff blasting their instruments, and they all begin to dance in the Jiron Lima, one of the main roads of the city of Puno, the high city that touches the sky and dampens its lands with the deep blue waters of lake Titicaca.

They wave about their handkerchiefs, jumping, tumbling and spinning in suits of lights; smiling, winking, making jokes and faces, in a plethoric night of happiness and revelry that seems to be endless, because the children of Titicaca - the highest navigable lake in the world (3,809 m.s.n.m.) - are willing to dance the entire night, with neither a care for the cold nor the impertinent rain drops that seek to dampen their enthusiasm.

They are agile, elastic, indefatigable and yes, tipsy, the dancers advance in groups along the jiron. A banner reveals its origin... "each neighborhood has its group", explains between jumps the "Leader", one of the very many characters of the "Diablada", the traditional dance of Puno that represents the eternal fight between good and evil, between heaven and hell.

The Diablada is something like an authentic hell of movements, music and general rejoicing, in which bands made up of dozens of dancers represent the fight between the Archangel San Miguel and the hosts of demons, led by a great devil wearing a frightening mask from which escape colorful snakes.

The Chinese devil woman - sensual and flirtatious -, the imp, the old man and a couple of moving and restless bears, they are some of the characters that fill with color the chilly streets of the very high city.

Cheers!, the devil proposes with his mask of horns , tangled and brilliant, who is happy because of the archangel's San Miguel's absence again. "Go and see, only god knows where he is", renounces a "mamacha" among the spins of the dance; "I saw him with another group. I think he is a traitor", says an old man that speaks as if he had a cloth tongue.

The musician makes faces for the rebuff. "They are all the same", he says with wise resignation and a partner - almost as drunk as he - gives him a pat on the shoulder, hugs him, fixes his jacket, and tells him that it is necessary to continue in the groups to the Cathedral that is close and they should play in the atrium the last melodies in honor of the Mom Candelaria, the worshipped Patroness of Puno, the American folkloric capital.


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