The Fiesta de los Diablitos translates as the Festival of Little Devils, but its true meaning is closer to the Festival of the Ancestral Spirits. This annual celebration takes place in Boruca and Rey Curre, two villages that are home to the Brunka indigenous tribe. The town of Boruca celebrates the three-day festival at the end of December or beginning of January, while Rey Curre holds their fiesta during the first week of February.
This indigenous festival celebrates the Brunka tribe's victory over the Spanish conquistadors with masks, costumes, and traditions that date back generations. Many village men dress up as diablitos, or the ancestral spirits, and one representative takes the roll of a bull, which represents the Spanish conquerors.
During the festival, the bull and the diablitos dance around a fire, in a ritual known as the Dance of the Diablitos. The celebration lasts for three days and while it appears at times that the bull might win, on the third day, the diablitos finally prevail – just as they did historically. While outsiders are welcome to the village to watch the festivities, only local Brunka males who have carved their own masks are allowed to participate in the Dance of the Diablitos. Women are not permitted to play a role in the dance, but are an integral part of the festival's organization.
The people of Boruca are particularly famous for their colorful, hand-carved masks, which are made from lightweight balsa wood. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived, they had at their disposal the most advanced weapons of the time. The Brunka, on the other hand, had only the animal spirits to guide them. As homage to the spirits that aided them, today's intricate Boruca masks are carved and painted to represent these animal spirits. Participants also dress in gangoche sacks, which are similar in texture to burlap, and cover themselves with large banana leaves.
Chicha, an alcoholic drink crafted from fermented corn, is a staple during the Fiesta de los Diablitos. Brunka women begin preparing chicha about eight days before the celebrations begin. One of the most iconic images of the Fiesta de los Diablitos is of a hollowed-out "guacal" gourd, filled to the brim with fresh chicha.