Burning the Devil Celebrations (La Quema del Diablo)
Friday, December 7 2007, 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Guatemalans are habitual victims of early spring cleaning. By late afternoon on 7 December each year, the eve of the Fiesta de La Virgen de Inmaculada Concepción (Feast day of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception), town and cityfolk have cleared their homes of all unwanted bits and pieces and erected vast heaps of rubbish on the streets.
By 6pm the piles are set alight and throngs of onlookers gather round to celebrate an ancient tradition called La Quema del Diablo (The Burning of the Devil). Guatemalans strongly believe that by burning the rubbish they are purging their homes and towns of evil.
This fire and brimstone ritual is interestingly a throwback to 18th century Catholic folkore and represents the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception's merciless struggle with the devil. The Virgin is a very special saint for Guatemala - she was declared patron Saint of Guatemala City as early as 1738, and patron Saint of the Americas by Charles III in 1756.
Today the nation's capital honours long-standing traditions as men dress up as devils and give chase to local children, while Antigua's Convent of Conception erects an effigy of Lucifer himself, which is also set ablaze. You'll never see clergy in the same light ever again...