The Dominican Republic has been attracting more visitors from all over the world because of its impressive entertainment strategies. For many years, it has been a nice dwelling place for anybody who is looking for the utmost fun, adventure, and excitement.
The month of February is the month of the Dominican Republic carnival, the grandest cultural celebration uniting the Dominicans of all ages and walks of life. Everybody can be spectators or participants.
Want to witness these colorful and joyful festivities? Here are the details you should consider:
Fun Facts About Dominican Republic Carnival
During the Spanish era, way back 15th century, the Caribbean region has the oldest Carnaval Dominicano. After having connections with the African and indigenous influences, it is known to evolve since the citizens are making fun of the elaborate costumes of the colonial masters.
As years pass by, these costumes have become the Dominican’s version of different characters, each telling a history and province folklore. In short, it has been the reflection of the mixed heritage of the Dominicans.
The Dominican Republic embraces diversity as it is influenced by Taino northern coast costumes to southwest African Influence. Now, they proudly present a vibrant and cheerful culture, history and people.
There cities having the oldest traditions for Carnivals and these include the Cabral, Santo Domingo, Santiago, La Vega, and Montecristi. Rafael Trujillo, the former dictator, had prioritized the so-called social carnivals for separate classes with private and elite club performances. The Dominicans went beyond and made these activities a big celebration for everybody.
Carnival Characters and Masks
Every province or city is represented by a main character in the Carnival. It can be a diablo cojuelo (limping devil) with huge and colorful masks. Why was it limping? Based on the legends, the devil in the mask was a mischievous one that it has been sent to Earth and had an injured leg, making him lame.
The parade encompasses the comparsas groups and folklore personalities in the DR showcasing different costumes. They deliver specific messages – can be political, comical, etc. Take note that each parade is unique and different from another. Thus, you will learn a lot about each province’s traditions and roots for the whole month.
The Carnival in the DR always ends in March, usually on its first Sunday. The finale or closing of the bright and lively celebration features a grand National Parade or Desfile Nacional in Santo Domingo. It is a part of the celebration of the country’s Independence Day.
In fact, the thirty-one provinces in the Dominican Republic even compete for prizes. This event is often held at the seafront boulevard of Santo Domingo. The final parade brings a spectacular display of creative costumes that you will only see in the Caribbean region. The longest parade recorded in the history happened in 2016 wherein there are more than 170 groups participated which lasted for about 7 hours.
We picked only the top 4 of the best carnival characters and we will also explain the meanings behind these elaborate costumes, personalities, and masks of the Dominican Republic carnival.
Carnival de la Boa
The Carnival de la Boa is the main character of La Vega. The parade takes place in the morning which passes by several streets. Although it is less publicized, this carnival features the Carnival’s traditional version of this city for more than 50 years. It features simpler costumes of devils that are dancing, posing, whipping, and leaping with children.
La Vega’s Diablo Cojuelo character, as mentioned earlier, is a devil walking with a limp. This creature comes with sharp teeth and multiple horns. For some costume variations, there can be dolls, bells and stuffed animals placed on the masks.
The costumes have fancy, vibrant designs, and ruffles. Just imagine how people get energy while walking and limping with the hot costumes in them.
Carnaval De Santiago
Carnaval De Santiago is another popular carnival next to La Vega. Featuring colorful and creative parade presentations, you will see lively crowd participation in the Restoration Heroes Monument, an iconic spot around the city.
This city presents the carnival characters, “piglets” or lechones. These are the devils worn as masks resembling a pig face also known as Santiago’s pork. What makes these scary is their curved and long snout, rather their tall horns.
This carnival is being participated by hundreds of lechones groups. They vary in costumes and masks denoting specific places. The fear of the piglets (lechones) is brought by their sisal rope or signature “fouet”. The most popular characters are Los Joyeros, a mask spiked with multiple thorns, and the second one is Los Pepines, a mask featuring smooth horns yet has tall and pointed snouts.
They hit bottoms and crack whips while dancing an African-style dance. Then, they swing their legs from one side to another and lunge forward.
San Pedro de Macoris (Los Guloyas)
Cocolos is known as Dominican Republic’s unique Afro-Caribbean group. This group has been the descendants of Africans who are enslaved and sent to the DR during the 19th century. They are known to originate from the Caribbean’s British Islands.
The dancers are named Guloyas who join this Carnival and wear beaded and beautiful costumes including feathery hats. Dancing to the beat of their drums, they twirl happily while walking the streets.
El Roba La Gallina (The Hen Robber)
The Dominican Republic Carnival is not about horrible characters such as devils. This lovely place also has a silly character called the El Roba La Gallina, or the Hen Robber. This is a folkloric character that aims to bring fun and laughter to the audience and participants.
This character is dressed up in a fancy layered dress with elaborate makeup, huge hips, and breasts. It walks around the neighborhood shops to beg for money, sweets or foods for her children or pollitos. You will also her carrying a huge purse while handing out candies to the audience. Then later, she steals chickens and put them in the emptied bags. The crowd bursts into laughter as The Hen Robber shakes her bottom and dances on the streets.
Choosing Your Carnival
Online Travel Portals
The internet has been the easiest and most convenient way to find anything. If you are wondering to go and what to do in the DR, find the most trusted travel portals online. Here, you make a reservation of your next trip, inquire, and book your trips. If you search for this place, you are likely to encounter information about its carnival. From here, you can make a search and inquire.
Magazines or Newspapers
Many magazines and newspapers would include or feature popular carnivals. These are other reliable sources for you to check. If you happen to find one in the bookstore, in a friend’s place, in the office, or elsewhere, then consider yourself lucky. Take advantage of the information it offers regarding the colorful festivals and carnivals in places like the Dominican Republic.
The Social Media
As internet technology advances, people find a lot of different ways to get information. Whatever it is that you want to know, you can now count on social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or YouTube. Most companies today create social media accounts to present their ads or promotions to let people know about products, services or events such as these carnivals.
Word of Mouth
And of course, there is always the power of sharing through personal talking with your colleagues, relatives, and friends about the places they have been to. You can also ask them about the Dominican Republic if they have been there. For sure, they will be happy to share details about the Dominican Republic carnival.
What Makes the DR Carnival Unique?
- The Dominicans use a mask as a symbol of supernatural, unknown spirits and spiritual world entities. These have been applied even prior to recorded history. For Native Americans and African tribes, they are using masks in order to catch the attention or hide from more spiritual or higher beings.
- The Tainos, the island natives, and other nearby islands celebrate their own festivals even before Spaniards came. They call it areitos. The purpose of these festivities is the commemoration of harvest times and planting periods. Furthermore, they also honor death, weddings and all significant happenings.
- They add fun and humor to the crowd by performing. This is their way to keep calm and relax amidst the difficulties in life.
The DR has a lot to offer to its locals and visitors. As you stay longer in this place, you will meet more people and understand its culture and traditions. It is a place for all kinds of travelers – solo, couples, family or even groups of friends.
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