Province of Jujuy
El Carnaval de Humahuaca is a popular celebration held at the beginning of Lent, throughout the Quebrada de Humahuaca, in the Northwestern Province of Jujuy, Argentina. Introduced by the Spaniards in South America, the Carnival gradually merged with native rituals and beliefs and it’s a major opportunity to celebrate the fertility of the land while honoring the Pachamama (Mother Earth), the Andean major deity. This tradition has indigenous, Spanish and Creole reminiscences.
A Diablo from the Comparsa Pocos Pero Locos poses in front of El Castillo de Arena, in the surroundings of Tilcara.
The celebration begins in each community with the Unearthing of El Diablo, also called Coludo, Pujllay or Supay, in Quechua, represented by a rag doll that was buried at the end of the previous Carnival. Through this cathartic festival, that last three weeks, every repressed desire is released, hard drinking is allowed and moral precepts are shelved. El Diablo is among the most vibrant and colorful characters of the Andean popular culture and became a significant ambassador of the Quebrada of Humahuaca, a valley that was enlisted by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site (2003) and that belongs to El Camino Inca – a major cultural route that extends from Quito, Ecuador, to Mendoza, Argentina, through Perú and Bolivia.
Two Diablos from a Comparsa called La Uníon de la Juventud pose in front of the majestic and colorful Serranía de Hornocal, 25 km from the city of Humahuaca.
Los Diablos, which are only visible during the Carnival weeks, perform traditional dances and songs descending from Tilcara’s mountains in a spectacular parade and roaming in the streets while playing traditional instruments, such as the erkenchos, annates and bombos. Their colorful costumes and masks are renewed every year, using bells and mirrors, and are either burnt or buried as soon as the Carnival is over. Those who have the honor to represent el Diablo also have the privilege to open these celebrations throwing talc and confetti while sharing alcohol, basil and coca leaves with the people who gather around them to celebrate. Los Diablos are organized into a series of Comparsas, locally formed groups, each of which represents a different neighborhood or a small village. Every Comparsa has a specific name, its own portfolio of songs and dances, and compete with the others to achieve the most powerful and original representation of el Diablo, seeking protection and abundance through the year. Despite being Carnival, being a Diablo it’s a serious matter.
With the goal to enhance the cultural heritage of the Northwestern Region and, in particular, of the province of Jujuy, BIOPHILIA shaped a multilayered project to preserve and promote the traditions of a selected group of Comparsas based in the Quebrada of Humahuaca, mainly in the towns of Tilcara and Humahuaca, creating synergies with the rural farmers and turning traditional culture into an important added value for the whole region.
This mysterious Diablo posing in front of el Cerro Colorado, in Purmamarca, is from the Comparsa Pocos Pero Locos.
Traveling to the Quebrada of Humahuaca is an enriching and at time surreal experience. Best time to visit this amazing valley is January through July and September through December. Main towns are Purmamarca, Maimará, Tilcara and Humahuaca. In 2015, the Carnival weeks will run February 14th through March 9th. Detailed information about the Carnival activities is available on the official page (in Spanish) at Carnaval de Humahuaca.
From the top of el Castillo de Arena, one Diablo reveals the unique beauty of the Quebrada de Humahuaca.
One Diablo roams in the mesmerizing formations of el Cerro Colorado, Purmamarca
Two Diablos, father and son, pose for a portrait in Coctaca, a small village immersed in a valley of huge cactus called cardones, 15 km from Humahuaca.
PHOTOGRAPHS by Marco Vernaschi