How the Diablitos Came to Be
There are a variety of stories about how the village artisans began to make little devils, but the most credible is from an article by Claudia B. Isaac, called Witchcraft, Cooperatives, and Gendered Competition in a P’urepecha Community. (Alternate spellings for this group of people include P’urepecha, Purépecha, and P’urhépecha.)
Marcelino Vicente and “Women’s Work”
Although clay work was engaged in only by women up until the 1960s, an unusual young man, Marcelino Vicente, began creating strange little figures of devils, monsters, and unholy scenes. Called diablitos, or “little devils,” the creatures surprised everyone by selling well in the markets. Based upon the success of these figurines, other local clay workers began to make similar items.
Some diablitos are quite simple; others consist of more complex scenes with many figures situated in groups. The devils may be found in religious settings, including at depictions of the Last Supper, and are often sexual in nature.