The Devil’s Game of Costa Chica takes place during the celebration of Day of the Dead. The devils begin their journey in the cemetery and symbolically help the dead to visit their relatives in the village.
The dance is usually performed by 24 dancers formed into two columns. There is a Diablo Mayor also called El Viejo (The old man), and his wife La Minga or La Vieja (The old woman),who is the mother of the devils. She dances with El viejo, the devil’s children and people in the audience. Her role typically toys between flirtatious and parodically grotesque. In some communities of the Costa Chica region, additional characters appear such as Lucifer, Death, and Time, all with masks and costumes.
The Devils wear battered, old and torn clothes, mostly black with fringed edges. They wear red bandannas on one hand, the waist, the neck or the head. They each wear a mask made of wood or cardboard with a deer antler, hair and beard of horsehair. The diablo ‘mayor’ wears chaps and his attire is more elegant than others. He is responsible for producing sound with an instrument known as the bote. The Minga wears clothes of gaudy colors, blouse, skirt and shawl.
The instruments are a flute (harmonica), a charrasca (jawbone of a donkey or horse) and a bote or tigrera. This last instrument is a kind of small drum whose leather is connected to rod that has been greased with Campeche wax, and when rubbed by hand produces a sound like the roaring of a tiger. According to African tradition the tigrera was used by hunters to attract tigers.
Accompanied by the flute, the charrasca and the bote, the devils walk along the main streets of the village. These tunes are traditional, including: el tendido (the laying), la zamora, el cruzado (the crossed), el periquito (the parakeet), los enanos (the dwarves), el segundo tendido (the second laying), el jarabe (the syrup), la minga, el casamiento (the marriage).
The villages that perform the Juego de los Diablos on the Costa Chica are Cuajinicuilapa and San Nicolás in the state of Guerrero, and Collantes and Tapextla in the state of Oaxaca. It is important to note that in almost all the villages in the region, this tradition of African origins has also taken root in and among mestizo populations.