17 March 2007


In February we celebrated Carnival. Unlike similar Mardi Gras celebrations which occur the weekend before Lent, Dominican Carnival is every Sunday in February, culminating on the 27th - Dominican Independence Day. As the years continue, fun-loving Dominicans seek to extend this time, beginning at the end of January and stretching celebrations into March. Carnival is celebrated throughout the country to varying degrees, but La Vega (my province capital) is famous for their festivities. Jarabacoa also celebrates in a very similar manner, but on a much smaller scale.

Each Sunday afternoon, people line the streets to watch the parading of the mascaras - masks. These demons are elaborately designed each year by different groups. Each group has a name (Los Tigueres, Los Indeseables) and a theme. The costume for each member is the same with occasional slight variations. Jarabacoa has 8 groups, but La Vega has over 150! In Jarabacoa, after the parading of this year's masks, there is a free-for-all with the kids, teenagers and adults walking around in last years' costumes.

It all sounds like a lot of fun, right? Well, of course there's a catch. Each of the mascaras carries a vejiga. Originally, these were sheep bladders filled with rice. Now vendors sell them (along with plastic masks) as cloth-covered balls filled with air. However, the parade participants carry vejigas made of tire rubber and filled with rice. As the parade wanders down the streets, any onlooker in the street can be hit with one of these. Of course there are rules... If you're on the sidewalk or behind a rope you are safe (usually!). And the mascaras can only hit you on the backend. But that doesn't mean they have to be gentle! Often times they wind up, delivering quite a wallop! Unfortunately, I don't think I got any good pictures of people getting whacked, but you can see the vejigas in many of the pics.

After the parade is over (about an hour in Jarabacoa; all afternoon in La Vega!), there is usually a concert with a famous artist. Jarabacoa is just starting to put on concerts, so there were several glitches this year and a lot left to be desired, but over all it's a great time for celebration. Hito, Caroline and I made the worthwhile trip to La Vega one Sunday, as well as attending the Carnival in Jarabacoa as often as we could!

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