Every year, on December 7th, the people of Barrio Concepción in La Antigua Guatemala set an elaborate sculpture of the devil on fire. According to local lore, the burning of the devil is held just before the Day of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception in order to purify people’s homes. Families throughout Guatemala usually perform this old tradition by burning small devil piñatas among random piles of trash outside of their homes at precisely 6:00pm. Firecrackers are often added for dramatic effect.
La Antigua Guatemala celebrates it differently, however. The Municipality of La Antigua opted to have what they refer to as an “Ecological Burning of the Devil”. So, they put a big image of the devil in Barrio Concepción and set it on fire so that people don’t burn their trash on the streets. The Devil sculpture is often satirical and it mocks current affairs in Guatemala. According to the creators of this year’s devil, Escuela Altarén, their message is about politics.
“It’s about that old refrain you often hear grandparents say about who’s going to eat the Guava fruit when they get elected to the Municipality,” explains Josué Romero, a member of Escuela Altarén. “So, that’s the message, and the devil’s a grandpa made in nobody’s likeness so that people won’t kidnap it or beat it up like in the past couple of years.”