It’s one of the most joyous (and exhausting) weeks of the year in various parts of the world, from Venice to Port of Spain and New Orleans to Rio de Janeiro. But being as fond as I am of the Dominican Republic, I’ve got a soft spot for the pre-Lenten Carnaval celebrations down here – especially because unlike in many other places, here the party keeps poppin’ for a good part of the month of February in various towns and cities, culminating today, February 27th, which is also when the country celebrates its Independence Day. The biggest hoo-has are held in Santiago, La Vega, and Bonao in the center of the country, and of course in Santo Domingo, where the waterfront avenue, the Malecón, becomes transformed into a brightly colored sea of people watching and participating in the carnival processions.
There are all sorts of themes and historical allusions in these processions, especially those dating back to the colonial era, with conquistadores, slaves, and the like, plus dudes in drag (no, not drag queens, but rather traditional figures known in Spanish as as roba la gallina, “chicken robbers”, who supposedly conceal the stolen birds in their “hips” and “cleavage”), as well as all manner of fantastical animal characters. Participants often march in organized groups called comparsas (think of the krewes in New Orleans’ Mardi Gras). A central figure is known as the diablo cojuelo (lame devil), more impish than evil, who appears in myriad versions of brightly colored costumes and outsized horns. Often the wearers spend months creating their costumes and papier-mâché masks out of found objects and materials.
For those of you who might be vacationing out in one of the Punta Cana Iberostar resorts, the local carnaval happens in March instead of February – and this year it’s scheduled for Saturday, March 10. But wherever you witness it, Carnaval a la dominicana is certain to leave you buoyant and impressed with the creativity, resilience, and joyousness of the Dominican people.
Whether or not you make it to Carnaval in the Dominican Republic, your vacation with Iberostar resorts is sure to be a party. Which will you choose?
Photo | LuieRRe