The village of Cata with a population of approximately 950 residents is the site for one of the oldest manifestations of devil dances in Venezuela. Along the road entering the town stands the remains of a Catholic missionary, 'work of faith' (obra de pia), where thousands of slaves were forced to work on the premises in the commercial production and exportation of chocolate and coffee.  Counting back by generations of his family's participation in the dances, one of the oral historians in Cata, José Silva, claims the devil dances were performed as early as 1617 under the auspices of the obra de pia.

As in other dances of the region, on the eighth Wednesday after Holy Thursday a single devil runs to the church and throws himself to the ground in front of the church doors. The following day of Corpus Christi, approximately 30 dancers make their way from the house of the cofradia to the church just past the central plaza in Cata. They typically dance in line formations that cross and join, varying the footsteps and choreographies throughout the day. In 2008, 2009 and 2010, the official priest of the parish was not present; instead a cross and a limosna (donation basket), with candles were located just inside the church doors. Dancers approach two by two and then kneel down together in an act of promesa, or pledges and prayers. One of the oldest dance formations is known as the caracol where dancers follow each other through a spiral formation in the patio facing the church.

At around mid-day, the entourage of devil dancers and viewers make their way through the streets to individual houses. Dancers enter the houses and bless them for health and to ward off evil spirits.  Once inside, they move toward an indoor altar and improvise dances in respect for the altar and the family members of the house.

In Cata dancers typically dress in a white t-shirt with a cross and multi-colored pants and capes. As in Ocumare, the details of masks, capes, pants and tights vary according to individual dancers. There are however, some aspects in common among the Cata masks. They are typically small and multi-colored with subtle or non-existent horns, usually made of paper maché, leather, cloth or wire mesh. Some have ribbons and hang off the face with a transparent nylon veil. The ribbons are known to honor dancers who have died. Masks are typically small and multi-colored. Dancers beat maracas and also carry whips.
Musicians accompany the dancers with a continuous strumming of the cuatro. In 2008, the cuatro was connected to a portable power amplifier and the well-known singer Francisco Pacheco (from Cata) played the cuatro along with family members including his niece, Nora Silva. Audiences numbered in the hundreds and included mostly residents from the area and visiting family members. 

2011 Devils of the Americas. Some rights reserved.


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