Bolivia and Peru’s relations are already strained due to the tension between Presidents Evo Morales and Alan García, but now the Devil has stepped in. Bolivia has threatened to sue Peru in the International Court of Justice to defend its cultural rights to the traditional Diablada, or Devil's Dance, performed at the Oruro Carnival, which Peru also claims as its own.
The controversy arose at the Miss Universe pageant on Aug. 23 where, according to Opinión, Peruvian contestant Karen Schwarz wore the traditional devil's outfit.
Bolivia's claim to ownership is supported by research from Bolivian filmmaker Pedro Susz who revealed to ABI that Peruvian press reports in the 1960s confirmed that the Diablada had originated in Oruro, Bolivia, according to articles published in Lima's El Comercio in 1964.
The Bolivian government substantiates its claim with postage stamps, court decrees and the status of the Oruro Carnival, including the Diablada, named an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Morales and his government highlighted the protest with a devil dance festival in La Paz's central Murillo square on Aug. 21, featuring 1,000 Diablada performers.
This display of culture prompted Jesuit priest Xavier Albó, a respected South American anthropologist, to write an article in Red Maná entitled Bedeviled Borders. Albó recalled that in pre-conquest America, colonial dances were performed to represent the battle between angels and the seven deadly sins. He also pointed out that Aymara chiefs ruled over a territory that is now divided between Bolivia, Peru and Chile, which is why it is not surprising to find similar dances at the Oruro Carnival, Candelaria festival of Puno (Peru) or the Tirana celebrations in Iquique (Chile).
Albó admitted, however, that the origins of the Bolivian Diablada shared deeper historic, cultural and religious traditions linked to the Aymara god Wari, also known as Tío (Uncle) or Dueño (Master) of the mine, who protected miners.
However, proving that beauty pageants are also wise, neither the Peruvian nor the Bolivian contestant, Dominique Peltier, qualified for the Miss Universe finals and the best national costume award went to Panama with another religious allegory, El Diablico Sucio (Dirty Little Devil).