San Martín Tilcajete, a vibrant town about an hour’s drive from Oaxaca City, is perhaps best known for its alebrijes — wooden artisan carvings of highly decorated creatures, both real and fantastical, meticulously painted in electric colors.
However, in the lead-up to Shrove Tuesday (also known as Fat Tuesday), the town is also known for its Carnaval celebrations, and a tradition known as the “Dance of the Devils,” in which revelers run through town in costume — their bodies covered in body paint to look macabre or otherworldly. Some wear grotesque-looking hand-made masks.
The dancers typically just wear shorts and cover the rest of their bodies in oil or paint. They paint their faces or wear masks with horns. If they don’t wear a mask, they will often use cow horns to allude to the devil aspect. They can paint themselves any color they choose, as long as it is striking.