Category Archives: CULTURE

The Culture of the Dominican Republic.

National Symbols

El Jinchaíto of Moca

The Town of Moca has a legend: “¡Llegó un Jinchaíto de moca!”

According to legend families living in the Moca area in the early 20th century were people of white color with straight hair, blue eyes and a little plump. The families living here used the water from the stream Juan Lopez for their water supply. Along came a drought and the stream dried up almost completely. The only water left in the area where large “puddles” of water.

These small reservoirs of water soon became contaminated. The thirsty people living in Moca had no other place where they could get their water so they had no choice but to use this nasty water. The Mocanos (The name was given to the inhabitants of the Moca area) who used this contaminated water started to have a swollen (in Spanish the word is hinchadas) appearance. When these swollen people left Moca and went to town the people called them `the jinchaítos of Juan Lopez”.

This name, Jinchaíto, is still used today. The Mocanos still hear ‘‘¡Llegó un Jinchaíto de Moca!’’ / “There goes a Jinchaito from Moca!” coming from the babbling waters of the arroyos as they flow past.

Carnaval El Jinchaíto

Today the famous Carnival Character from Moca is the swollen faced “El Jinchaíto”.

The swollen-faced carnival personality from Moca, El Jinchaíto, participating in Carnaval in Santo Domingo.
The swollen-faced carnival personality from Moca, El Jinchaíto, participating in Carnaval in Santo Domingo.

To read more about the carnival characters and to see some pictures of carnaval (we have some pictures of carnival in Moca in our collection also).

Offering of the Bulls

The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana / Offering of the Bulls

In the town of San Juan Bautista de Bayaguana, known simply as Bayaguana, in the Dominican Republic is held an exceptionally unique festival. The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana, also known as the Festival of the Bulls, the traditional cattle festival in Bayaguana. The festivities start on December 28 with the arrival of the bulls and end on January 1st with the offering of the bulls.

The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana / Offering of the Bulls - Bringing the bulls to town.
The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana / Offering of the Bulls – Bringing the bulls to town.

This tradition started when, during a long drought, the cattle were dying. The crops and fruit were drying up. So, in desperation, the people of the area offered a bull to Santo Cristo in exchange for rains to fall. After a few days passed the rains did return as usual and all was saved. Thus the tradition began.

The Festival El Santo Cristo Bayaguana Today

A few weeks before the festival the Commissioners of Santo Cristo de los Milagros go around the region collecting bulls. These are offerings from the believers as an expression of thanks for the favors bestowed on them that year and to signify their faith and devotion.

The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana / Offering of the Bulls - The Vaqueros - Cowboys and their horses are bringing the bulls to town.
The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana / The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana / Offering of the Bulls – The Vaqueros – Cowboys and their horses are bringing the bulls to town.

At dawn on the 28 of December the horseback riders the Vaqueros, bull wranglers, Commissioners and the faithful enter the town square with their bulls in tow. Here is held a consecration ceremony displaying the solemnity of their faith.

This procession is not a silent one, just the opposite. It is led by the Banda Municipal de Música. There are songs, prayers, dancing, and even fireworks. All transpiring while the bulls are led to a coral in the center of town where the bulls are held for the 4-day festival. These bulls are penned, waiting for the 4th day, January 1st, when they will be sold or “offered”.

The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana - People singing and chanting Cantos de Toros.
The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana – People singing and chanting Cantos de Toros.

The people gathered for the festival, including the people wanting to purchase these sacrificial bulls, are all in a joyful spirit. Sancocho is served and liquids imbibed such as rum, jengibre and coffee. The night is passed singing and chanting Cantos de Toros/ Songs of the Bulls and Salves. These songs are improvised verse and poetry sung a cappella. The singing is done in a round, with alternate soloists taking the lead while all the people gathered joining in like a choir. There is a real party spirit, much commotion and fireworks.

Come January 1st the people begin arriving from throughout the country to participate in the masses and offerings to Santo Christ. After eating the faithful gather at the altar and, in a very solemn ceremony, they ask for and are also thankful for, things and promises granted by the Santo Cristo for the past year and the year to come. This as a very inspirational and somber act.

The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana - The bulls are coming into town.
The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana – The bulls are coming into town.

After this ceremony the commissioners, nuns, priests and believers go to the corral where the bulls are kept to hold the sale. The money coming from the sale of these offered bulls will be used by the Catholic Church for good works.

This festival has been occurring for more than 400 years. These observances began with the foundation of the town of Bayaguana in 1604, during the Spanish colonization

The Miracles

It is said that there were several miracles attributed to Santo Cristo de los Milagros that are recognized during this festival:

*The image of the Son of God appeared to a little girl and the sight of her blind mother was immediately restored.

*A paralyzed man, wanting to participate in the festival stood and walked.

*On this day in 1924, when the North American troops left Santo Domingo, the church bells rang by themselves.

The rest of the pictures that I collected:

The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana - Children and adults arrive on horseback.
The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana – Children and adults arrive on horseback.
The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana - More bulls are arriving.
The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana – More bulls are arriving.
The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana - Vaqueros arriving on horseback.
The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana – Vaqueros arriving on horseback.
The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana - There are some Cowgirls coming into town
The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana – There are some Cowgirls coming into town
The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana - People entering the festival singing and chanting Cantos de Toros
The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana – People entering the festival singing and chanting Cantos de Toros
The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana - People in the streets coming in for the festivities.
The Festival El Santo Cristo de Bayaguana – People in the streets coming in for the festivities.

Dominican Carnival Characters

Dominican Republic Carnival Characters and Their History

The Carnival in the Dominican Republic is a wonderful expression of the culture and community of the island in the Caribbean. Each mask, costume, color and dance has a distinct flavor that expresses the unique cultural mix and the Dominicans special way of creatively expressing themselves.

There are many different carnival group names used as well as the ways in which the Carnival participants present themselves here in República Dominicana. The costumes are each different and represent the communities and regions from which they come. These elaborate masks, mainly the Diablos, are made in secret in little out of the way, hidden places where one would never imagine that there was a work of art being created there. These costumes are highly guarded, as they want all to be a surprise and not want their secret out until Carnaval time has arrived. Also, there is much money and notoriety to be won by having the best costumes.

A Diablo mask that is very intricate made for the Dominican Carnival
A Diablo mask that is very intricate made for the Dominican Carnival

Some of the masks are homemade by the wearers and the group participants. The more elaborate costumes are professionally made using real teeth, horns and skins mainly of cows. Traditionally they make a mold of clay and cover it with a yucca starch paste like papier-mâché (paper mache). The masks are shined, painted and decorated. The inside is lined with foam fashioned to fit the wearers face. Recently the mask making process has changed a little. Many of the masks now are being made with plastic replacing the paper. When the mold is ready they are using fiberglass, rubber and silicone. This makes the making of the mask faster and they are more resistant to sweat and weather.

Carnival – Early History | Video – Slaves Abused By Spanish Captors | Celebrations Worldwide | Video – Children Dancing | Carnival – Dominican Tradition | The Economy of Carnival | Video-The Dancing Girls, Fire Throwers | La Vega | Santo Domingo | The Vejiga | Celebration Locations | Roba la Gallina Video | Dominican Republic Carnival Characters and Their History | Complete list of our Videos of Carnival | Links to all the Picture Albums |

Listed are some of the names of the masks and troupes I have located. There is so much variety and character descriptions I hope I got the information correct. Different people I ask and different sources I have read all have a little different information. At least you will get the general idea of how diverse, original and creative all these costumes and their creators really are.

Diablo Cojuelos take over the Malecon during Dominican Carnival.
Diablo Cojuelos take over the Malecon during Dominican Carnival.

Diablo Cojuelos/ Devil who walks with a limp (from La Vega) masked demons are some of the most famous of all the carnival characters. This devil, as the story is told, was a demon banished to Earth because of his clownish pranks. When he fell to earth he hurt his leg and from now on always walks with a limp. These evil-looking creatures are multi-horned, sharp-toothed beings. They always have very elaborate masks.

Many of the regions have varying versions of this horrific devil. Some wear the mask atop their heads making it almost seem as if they have two faces. They all wear costumes that are brightly decorated with variations on the embellishments and mask styles. Some costumes are covered with bells, dolls or stuffed animals. These costumes are layered with ruffles or all types of fancy vibrant decorations. Some have ruffles that cover the entire back of their heads. Their walk, supposedly limping, really looks to me like frenzied dancing and jumping. How they get all that energy wearing those hot costumes is beyond me.

The colorful mirrored Lechones at Carnaval Dominicano
The colorful mirrored Lechones at Carnaval Dominicano

Lechones/ Pork Eaters (from Santiago) are traditional Carnival characters. They have elaborate galactic designed satin and taffeta costumes decorated with mirrors, beads and bells. They wear papier maché masks with a duck-like bill, big horns and carry a whip. Some of the masks resemble pigs.

A futuristic Lechone at the Dominican Republic Carnival
A futuristic Lechone at the Dominican Republic Carnival

Watch the video of Los Lechones on YouTube

Nicolás Den Den (from Santiago) is a fat, dirty, dancing bear chained to his human master. His comedic antics make the children laugh. The same costumed characters in Montecristi is called el Oso Nicolás.

Los Platanuses with a Dominican Flag gourd mask.
Los Platanuses with a Dominican Flag gourd mask.

Los Platanuses (from Cibao) are covered in plantain leaves, wear painted gourd masks and carry the whip.

Trapuses/ Rag (from Bonao) wear long colorful rag strips that are woven together and have a mask of the same material or just paint their faces.

Shredded paper Papelus of Dominican Carnival
Shredded paper Papelus of Dominican Carnival

Papelus/ Paper (from Cibao) and El Papelón/ Newspaper print (from Salcedo) wear costumes made of shredded paper (newspapers, colored crepe paper, shopping bags) or colored plastic bags with gourd masks and carry vejigas/ the inflated bladder weapons or látigos/ whips

Se Me Muere Rebeca (Salcedo) – Represents a desperate mother who wants to keep her daughter who was seriously ill happy. Walking and screaming she stops and asks for treats for her ill daughter who is represented by the doll she carries. She is usually followed by groups of children.

Mudmen and Ladies portraying everyday life of the indigenous people during carnival
Mudmen and Ladies portraying everyday life of the indigenous people during carnival

Mudmen are a group of underwear wearing men and women that are encrusted with colored mud.

El Mediodía/ The MidDay is a man dressed as a woman with the colors of the flag painted on their face.

General Cocotico wears a palm leaf stem to represent armour.

Los Ali Baba in their bright costumes.
Los Ali Baba in their bright costumes.

Los Alí Babá These costumes and dance represent Eastern presence with an Arabian flair. Watch the Los Alibaba Drumming video on YouTube

Los Monos de Simonico/ The Monkeys (from Villa Duarte)

Máscaras del Diablo (from Elías Piña) – These devil masks are adorned with red ribbon. These mask wearers traditionally do not speak. It is said that if you find the identity of the person wearing the mask you will drop dead on the spot.

Macarao/ Big Mask (from Hermanas Mirabal/ Salcedo and Bonao) wear big devil masks that have large mean teeth representing different kinds of animals. Their clothing is made of crepe paper streamers.

Pepines with their pointy masks
Pepines with their pointy masks

Pepines (from Santiago) wear masks with horns with short points covering them

El Hombre en Zancos strolling down the Malecon
El Hombre en Zancos strolling down the Malecon

El Hombre en Zancos/ The Man on Stilts (from San Cristobal ) Have huge costumes either high above their heads or they are walking on stilts.

Taimácaros (from Puerto Plata ) are diablos wearing a mask that covers the entire body representing a Taino god or an ancient Spaniard, with a colorful shell covered belt at their waist.

Cachúa (from Barahona) has small spikes covering their devil mask many fashioned after the local creatures. The mask is covered with long, flowing, colored paper representing hair with their costumes having the bat looking wings, unique patterns and capes. These creatures jump around in the street and have whip-cracking battles. The louder the crack the better.

Los Indios representing the Taino Indians
Los Indios representing the Taino Indians

Los Indios/ The Indians (from Santiago) dress to look like he Taino Indians and act out different scenes.

Los Pirulíes (from Cabral Barahona) – These are children dressed as Indians with a skirt made of coconut leaves.

Muerte con su Perplegía/ Death in all its Perplexity.

Culebra y las Siete Pecados/ The Snake and the Seven Sins.

El Doctor acting out their story trying to heal the sick during Dominican Carnival
El Doctor acting out their story trying to heal the sick during Dominican Carnival

El Doctor/ The Doctor (from San Cristobal ) wears glasses made of wire and dried orange skins, running throughout the crowd looking for women to cure. There are also entire medical crews acting out different scenarios.

Carnaval - The swollen-lip El Jinchaíto de Moca
Carnaval – The swollen-lip El Jinchaíto de Moca

El Jinchaíto is the main person of carnival in Moca. They also have their other characters including Los Chacales, Los Búhos/ The Owls, Los Cibernéticos, Los Indeseables/ The Undesirable Ones, Los Coyotes/ The Cyotes, Los Diablos Azules/ The Blue Devils, Los Dragones/ The Dragons are among the most popular in this region. Read about the Legend of El Jinchaíto de Moca.

Los Brujos with their religious trinkets blowing fire.
Los Brujos with their religious trinkets blowing fire.

Los Brujos/ The Witches. Sometimes these characters can be quite frightening. The one pictured on the left blew fire out of his mouth.

Los Galleros This is a small play acted out in the streets between two farmers holding their roosters. They decide to fight their roosters in the middle of the street. While they are engaging in the fight the police arrive to stop the fight and arrest the men. This is one of the many play acting shows that occur during Carnival.

A very happy Roba la Gallina.
A very happy Roba la Gallina.

Roba la Gallina/ Chicken Robber (from San Cristobal and Salcedo) These fun characters are dressed in brightly colored dresses, with a huge butt and breasts, carrying an old umbrella and a big purse. This character hits all the Colmados begging for food and drink that he-she shares with the crowd representing its chicks. It is thought to come from the old tradition of tar and feathering a person that stole a chicken and making them walk through the streets. This bazaar person yells out silly rhymes (ti-ti, manatí, ton-ton, molondrón, roba la gallina, palo con ella) while he begs for food. This is a very popular Carnival character.

Guloyas (San Pedro de Macoris) dress in bright colors with long strips of cloth in red and yellow. The suit is decorated with mirrors. They dance around to the music of la flauta/ the flute, el cencerro/ bells la tambora/ drum.

Carnival of opposites with men dressing as women Los Travestis.
Carnival of opposites with men dressing as women Los Travestis.

Los Travestis/ The Transvestites are men dressing up as women that are to signify their machismo-ness. They are always a crowd favorite. (remember much of Carnival is opposites or the upside-down world).

Califé is a social and cultural poet. He makes verses that make jest and comically criticizes the government and political figures. He wears black and white with a big black hat.

Los Muerte en Yipe skeleton father and son at Carnaval Dominicano
Los Muerte en Yipe skeleton father and son at Carnaval Dominicano

La Muerte en Yipe/ Death in a Jeep (Hermanas Mirabal/ Salcedo) is a skeleton and skull costumed death figure that has wounds dripping with blood. The name comes from the days when the Death characters used to climb up on the backs of the jeeps that towed the floats during the carnival parades. They hold a scythe.

The Civiles/ Civilians (from Montecristi) fight the Toros/ Bulls with loud cracking whips known as látigos. El Toro wears a dotted, flat animal mask and a thick padded costume to protect against the wrath of Los Civiles who crack their large whips that they use to fight the bull. These characters have mock battles that are not mock when the whip hits you! The bull will be the victor in the upside-down world of Carnival.

Las Marimantas (from Yerba Buena) – They cover their bodies in tree branches. Their heads are covered with a shell and the masks are made of cow leather.

Los Tiznaos/ The Stained Ones paint themselves with old motor oil that makes them a nasty shiny black. They run through the crowds accepting money so that they will not hug you.

Africanos together for a publicity picture.
Africanos together for a publicity picture.

Africanos use charcoal to blacken their flesh and wear loincloths sometimes made from plantain leaves and do not wear shoes. They also carry a spear. Some wear afro wigs, paint their faces the color of the flag or wear gourd masks, all depending on what the character wants to do.

Complete list of our Videos of Carnival

Videos on YouTube I took in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on the Malecon and Elsewhere

Carnaval 2016 Video
*Carnaval Zona Colonial 2016
*Cueva de los Broncos con Claro Carnaval Vegano 2016
*Cueva de los Broncos con Claro Carnaval Vegano 2016 -Part 2

Carnaval 2013 Videos
*Carnaval Ciudad Colonial 2013
*Carnival Ciudad Colonial 2013 Starting

Carnival 2010 Videos
*Bailar en Calle-Slaves
*Dancing Girls and More.

Carnival 2011 Videos
*Cannot Stop Dancing at Carnival Dominicano 2011
*Music and Carnival Dominican Republic 2011

Carnival 2012 Videos
*Gaga Esperanza and Los Liones del Diablo
*Ucave Carnaval Vegano
*Haiti
*Sparkle Men
*The Group From Samana
*Los Brujos
*Lechones and Facebook
*Ali Baba and Other Groups
*Los Pintao Barahona
*Africanas on Stilts
*Roba la Gallina
*Los Indios and Fire Blower
*Dragon, Devil and Cavemen
*Gaga de Boca Chica
*Diablo Cojuelos

Carnaval 2008 Videos
*Los Alibaba Drumming
*Los Lechones dancing around

Stilt men
Stilt men

Links to all the Picture Albums

I put most of the pictures I took into slideshows. Some of the picture pages are very large files and some are in old formats. I hope you can enjoy the pictures.

*Carnaval in Ciudad Colonial 2013 Picture Album
*Dominican Republic Carnaval 2012 Picture SlideShow
*Pictures of Carnaval Dominicano / Dominican Carnival 2010
*Carnival 2008 slide show
*Old Carnival Pictures Slideshow

For more information about Carnival masks go to dominicanmasks.com