"Black devils" roam Oaxacan town during Fat Tuesday

One of our friends in Oaxaca surprised us by taking us to a restaurant called Almú in the tiny and remote town of San Martín Tilcajete in the Oaxaca Valley. 

As we drove through town, our car was blocked by dozens of men and boys dressed like devils and painted black pretended to rampage through the town as part of how Oaxaca celebrates carnival. It's a tradition called the "La Danza de los Diablos" or "Dance of the Devils," a name coined by Spanish missionaries. I got out and took a few pictures. 

When the Spanish first came to Oaxaca in the 16th Century, Zapotecs (the main indigenous ethnic group in Oaxaca) tried to scare them away by painting themselves black and acting like monsters. 

It's part of Zapotec tradition since before the Spanish arrived. The black "paint" is made with cooking oil mixed with charcoal. Many also paint their faces white, red, or black. 

Until recently, only men and boys participated, but a few years ago a few women and girls started joining in. 

Traditionally they wore shells around their waists to make a racket while running around town. Nowadays, they use bells. They try to scare people, and, if they can they wipe some black coloring on the faces of women and girls -- the "kiss of the devil," a way of flirting with them.

The tradition has variants around Oaxaca, but it's particularly strong in San Martín Tilcajete, and the town is locally famous for it. 

Also: There's drinking involved. As we drove through the town after our four-hour lunch, some of those devils were conspicuously hammered.