Devils and the bull have at it again in Boruca

New Year’s Eve is party time, and the most elaborate celebration is by the Boruca in southern Costa Rica.

There the annual Juego de Diablos is played out over three days. This is a tourist magnet for those sturdy enough to observe the celebration on the Reserva Indígena Boruca south of Buenos Aires de Puntarenas. Access to the community is between kilometers 231 and 232 on the Interamericana Sur.

Tourists are welcome because the reserve residents earn money from selling masks and textiles.

The event has been called an important way to preserve the identity of the southern Costa Rican native group. The diablos represent the Boruca, and their adversary, the Toro or bull, is a
manifestation of the colonial Spanish intruders. Thursday is preparation day as the diablitos, now counted in the dozens, prepare for the festival.

The ritual dancing begins in the first minutes of Friday when the diablitos, frequently fortified with chicha, parade through the community. The symbolic confrontation with the bull begins early Saturday. The climax, the death of the bull, takes place this year on Sunday.

Over the final two days the bull and the devils fight until the latter are vanquished. But that is not the end. The diablitos are resurrected and then vanquish the bull. All of this is done in many locations of the Boruca lands. Sometimes the event is called the baile or dance of the devils.

The Boruca also are known for their distinctive wooden masks, usually balsa or cedar, that are used in the juego de los diablitos.

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