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Origin of Dominican Republic Carnival

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The bright colors and smiling faces of Dominican Republic Carnival
Carnival is celebrated the entire month of Febrero/ February throughout the country of Dominican Republic filling each weekend with parades, events and competitions. Each town offers their own twist to the event. The celebration climaxes on or near the 27th of February, Dominican Independence Day.

Carnival Dominicano an experience that everyone should have sometime in his or her life. Visitors and Dominicans alike wait with anticipation for this time of year. The celebration brings with it so much color and tradition from the vivid colors of the costumes, the spirited music and lively dancing. The droves and crowds of humans with voices raised. Experiencing the electricity (even if the electric power may be out) coming from the participants and viewers alike as all join in the festivities. Carnival is a true Dominican experience.


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The bright colors and smiling faces of Carnival Dominicano
The use of masks to symbolize spiritual, supernatural and unknown spirit world entities has been used since before recorded history. Africa tribes and Native Americans, among the many ancient peoples, used masks to either depict, get the attention of, or to hide themselves from a higher, or more spiritual being. The natives of the island, the Tainos, and the natives of the surrounding islands had their own festivities long before the arrival of the Spaniards. Their celebrations were called areitos. Mainly they were to commemorate planting and harvest times. They also honored weddings, death and other significant happenings in their lives with these celebrations. They would use body decorations, tattoos, paint, jewelry, and masks during these festivals.

Later came the arrival of the Conquers and their African slaves. These new arrivals on the island brought with them carnival celebrations from their perspective countries. The African peoples brought with them their own festivals and celebrations. These contributed the vibrant colors, and some of the traditions of making frightening masks, the musical instruments, dance and songs. They also gave a little humor to the mix by making fun of themselves and life. It was a way to escape the hardships of life. Making their existence a little easier to bear by making jest of themselves and their circumstances.

The first part of this video is a Dominican Carnaval Troupe depicting the slaves and their captors. They act out the slaves being abused by their Spanish captors and the Monk is trying to stop this cruel atrocity. The song is Carnaval (Baila en la Calle) by Luis Diaz
Along with the arrival of Columbus and his entourage came European religion. Since carnival was mostly "pagan" the Spaniards added their religious inflections to the celebration. They wanted to permit their slaves to let loose and have a little diversion to get the "wild" out of their systems. Even though they said this was for the slaves and the natives of the island, the slave owners enjoyed the unrestrained festivities also. To pacify their spiritual side, they had to add some religion into the mix.

Carnival has been celebrated in Santo Domingo since the mid 1500's and before. There is proof of carnival found in la Ruinas de la Vega Vieja/ Ruins of the Old Fertile Valley (near the present day town of La Vega) showing that celebrations were going on here even before they were celebrated in Santo Domingo. The people in the old town of La Vega disguised themselves as Moors and Christians (the Moors, the name the Spanish gave the Islamic persons, and the Christians were always at odds).

carnival crowds in santo domingo on the malecon
It is thought that República Dominicana was the first place in the Americas to observe the pre-Lenten carnival custom. The celebrations became an escape of the pressures and rigidity of religious tradition. By the late 1700's carnival had become a major celebration. Then when Dominican Republic won their independence February 27,1844 the celebration evolved to encompass the Independence Day commemorations as well. Finally, becoming what it is today.  Beginning the traditional carnival with the pre-lenten celebrations, the climax concluding with the Independence Day observances. Combining both celebrations and making the entire month of February a celebration and time for enjoyment
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Carnival on the Malecon in Santo Domingo
Did you know?
Carnevale in Greek is pronounced Aprokies and it means "farewell to meat".  The original Latin word "carne vale," means farewell to meat.

Many countries celebrate some type of Carnival. There are a multitude of different names as there are varieties of traditions that follow this custom. It is interesting to find that of the many different carnival traditions throughout the world how many of them are surprisingly similar.
Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday)- New Orleans, USA
Jamaica Carnival - Jamaica
Carnival of Binche - Belgium
Trinidad Carnival - Port of Spain, Trinidad
Carnival St. Thomas - US Virgin Islands
Nice Carnaval - French Riviera, France
Carnival of Venice - Italy
Carnival - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Carnival (Fastnacht) in Cologne - Cologne, Germany
Maslenitsa - Russian Carnival
Zapusty - Poland

A brightly dressed Carnival Troupe comprised of mostly younger children dancing. All ages enjoy Carnaval and its festivities. This was before the Carnival parade even started. They were just practicing in the Parque San Jose in Ciudad Colonial.
 
 
 
 
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