Friday, February 27, 2009


Today is a big day in my parent's country, Dominican Republic. It's their Independence Day. It is celebrated with a big Carnival, and Boy do I wish I was there today.

Carnival is actually a country wide festivity and celebrated the entire month of February (Dominicans love any excuse to party). Each weekend there are parades, events and competitions. Each town offers their own twist to the event, with costumes, mask, music, and different customs but the big climax is today, their actual independence day. Participating groups can consist of family units, clubs, friends, families and businesses, all can participate in the carnival parade of masked creatures.

People dress up in colorful costumes and masks. The masks are believed to symbolize supernatural spirits, and the ritual is a lot like those done by the Natives (Tainos) before the Spaniard Invaded. (The arrival of Columbus, added a religious twist because the festivities were believed to be Pagan)
Of the many costumes and creatures represented the most celebrated seem to be the devils known as Diablos Cojuelos. Others are painted bodies, or bodies decorated with paper. And yet others may have animal masks or elaborate costumes. Many disguises and get-ups symbolize the opposite, a world upside down. This is where the humor enters the scene. Men may dress as women. All is the opposite of what one would expect. This can be very funny to observe. Some costumes represent the Indians or mock the dress of the conquerors and oppressors of the island, the Europeans. These costumes are a mix or all the cultures, beliefs, peoples and ideas, making for a unique viewing experience. The costumes are only limited by the imagination of the creator.

We lived in the Capitol, Santo Domingo, and that was the carnival, we usually went to. This carnival would attract folks from the entire island with a magnificent and impressive parade held on the Malecon. People will have their faces painted. Children will have on plastic Halloween masks. There are all types of food being sold. Vendors selling their wares and trinkets commemorating the carnival. The sights and sounds of Dominican Carnival. If we were lucky, we got to party all month, while visiting family in the different towns during their Carnival.

But don't get too carried away. During all the fun and festivities, you have to remain alert for the Vejigas (air inflated animal bladders) and Latigos (whips) which are carried by most of the creatures in the carnival. Vejigas are generally made of either cow or pig bladders and filled with air. They are also sometimes made of rubber these days. These are used to hit the people that happen to get in the way. Always aiming to hit on the lower part of the body but with all the commotion in the street it is a free for all. I implore you DO NOT try and block with your hands or arms... Although it causes a little discomfort, it is best received on the back side... Trust me. Although it's believed to bring good luck. I think it is more lucky if you can avoid being hit.

Well, Here's to FREEDOM!!!!

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