Expert opinion
Who is El Diablito?
In the El Vallecito archeological site, located in La Rumorosa, the El Diablito site owes its name to a full-length human figure depicted using only the color red. Two horns have been added to its head, which explains why it has been known popularly as “El Diablito” ("the Little Devil") for decades. However, what does this enigmatic character really represent? It has no connection whatsoever to Catholicism and, what is more, each winter solstice it plays a starring role in an archeo-astronomical phenomenon in which it is illuminated by the rising sun, marking the end and the beginning of different life cycles for the ancient Kumiai nomads.

The book ‘Historia de la Antigua o Baja California’ (“History of Old or Lower California”), written by the Jesuit Francisco Xavier Clavijero in the eighteenth century, offers an account that helps us to understand this figure. Clavijero, referring to how the indigenous people of Baja California used to hunt, writes: “They adopt a curious strategy for hunting deer. An Indian takes a deer’s head, which is kept for this purpose, and putting it on his own head, hides behind some bushes so that only the false head is seen, which moves as if it were alive. Upon seeing it, the deceived deer come closer and are easily killed by other hunters who lie in wait.”

It is therefore clear that El Diablito really represents a hunter wearing a deer’s head as a headdress. We should also mention that they aren’t just any old antlers which are represented in El Diablito. They are characteristic of the deer known as “alesnillos” (“spike deer”), which are specimens with single-pointed antlers, they do not branch off or fork. Rural people and hunters know them as “venado alesnillo” (“spike deer”), the name coming from “lesna”, the Spanish word for an awl. In accordance with the information provided by Alberto Tapia Landeros, in Baja California there are only mule deer of the sub-species Odocoileus hemionus fuliginatus, to which the “alesnillos” belong. It is believed that they only inhabit specific areas based on the nutritional conditions of the vegetation cover. They are not seen as hunting trophies and some hunters even scorn them. However, others say they have to be killed, which has led them to become an endangered species.

The ancient indigenous people of El Vallecito did not hold the same beliefs about these deer as today’s hunters. Back then, the purpose of hunting them was to eat them, not to use them as trophies. It is highly likely that before the hunt, they used to carry out rituals in the El Diablito shelter in order to bring success. It is also likely that the “alesnillos” were highly valued by the ancient Kumiai, which explains why they were depicted in their paintings.

The deer approach the El Vallecito area and may seen there from October to December. Their presence there ends when the snowfalls begin, precisely around the time of the winter solstice, a phenomenon which is astronomically marked each year in El Diablito.

For the ancient Kumiai, the color red (kwar) was linked to the north, where the winter comes from. In this way, the red El Diablito with its “alesnillo” deer horns represents the end of the deer hunting season, the start of winter, snowfall, the rainy season and, with it, a plentiful hunting season to come.
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Antonio Porcayo Michelini
Beginning of the winter solstice event
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Antonio Porcayo Michelini
Moment in which El Diablito is fully lit up by the sun
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Antonio Porcayo Michelini
Culmination of the winter solstice event
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Olimpia Vázquez Ojeda
Panoramic view during the winter solstice event
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José Aguilar
Panoramic view of the Man in the Painting site
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José Aguilar
Autumn equinox at twilight from the Man in the Painting site
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José Aguilar
Winter solstice at dawn at the Man in the Painting
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José Aguilar
The sun at twilight seen from the Man in the Painting site during the Spring equinox
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