A small house museum in Píllaro, Ecuador, pays homage to a centuries-old tradition in the High Andes. Every year, a festival known as Diablada de Píllaro takes over the quiet mountain town. During the first six days of the year, people dress in elaborate costumes and parade into the city’s narrow streets. The Diablada features various characters, but by far the fan favorite is the mischievous dancing devils in their elaborate hand-painted masks. During the parade, these costumed devils scare children in the dense crowds that fill Píllaro during the Diablada. The devils have a roguish streak and are often armed with chili peppers and alcohol that they pour into the mouths of unsuspecting spectators.
Many of the community members who dress up as devils spend all year making their masks. Local mask-maker Italo Espín is one such artisan, and it’s his home that houses this small cultural museum, Casa El Pacto. While some Diablada parades use more modern costume pieces, Espín is dedicated to the traditional way of handmaking his devil masks. After using paper mache to craft the mask’s shape, he carefully paints each mask, then incorporates horns, teeth, and fur from animals such as deer, boars, and llamas.
Espín founded Casa El Pacto to help visitors understand the history behind the Diablada and these costumed characters. While the origin of the festival is under some debate, the Diablada has always had a strong rebellious character. Historically, the devils in the annual parade were a way for Indigenous Ecuadorians to assert themselves and their right to be in Píllaro as wealthy European colonizers began moving into the region in the 16th century.
Know Before You Go
Casa El Pacto is open to the public by reservation. The museum has a Facebook page with a phone/Whatsapp number (+593 3-287-4722) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
It’s located just outside central Píllaro, on the road leading out to Tunguipamba.
Note: On Google Maps, the museum’s name is listed as El Pacto Casa Cultural.