Tag Archives: dominican republic culture

Dominoes

Dominoes Dominican Republic Style

In Dominican Republic when you see dominoes being played it is not the simple game you played when you were a child. Dominions are the National Pastime and are as much a part of the Dominican culture as is La Bandera (the typical mid-day meal consisting of beans, rice stewed meat and a salad), Baseball and Merengue. For most, it is just part of everyday life. This game flows through their blood.

Playing Dominoes with the neighbors in Parque Rosado in the Colonial Zone.
Playing Dominoes with the neighbors in Parque Rosado in the Colonial Zone.

Dominoes | Dominó Dominicana / Dominoes Dominican Style | Funny Video | Facts and Trivia

Dominoes

Dominoes are a game most have played as children in its most simple form. I’m sure most people have a box of dominoes somewhere in their childhood history. Dominoes are a game that anyone can learn to play in a few minutes. Easy enough for children and yet has enough strategy that adults enjoy it equally.

Throughout the Dominican Republic one can hear the familiar sound of dominoes. Be it the crisp clicking sound as the pieces are being mixed on the table or the sound of a piece being slammed onto the game board. On almost every corner a game can be seen being played passionately and with intent by Dominicans who take pride in playing a good game. Many games are played for money and this is VERY serious playing.

Even though the game is easy to learn, there is much more to it than what one sees at first look. The best domino players know what you hold before you play your next move. They know what “bones” or “fichas” have been played and what still remains in the hand. It is amazing to watch these players sit for hours, most with a plastic glass of either beer or rum sitting at their side or in the small cutout holes on each corner of the domino table. There might be a can of Clamato juice to add to the beer. They sit for hours and hours, intent, not noticing the hour. Not noticing much of anything but the game and the social aspects of playing a good game of Dominoes.

A Domino Tournament held in Parque Colón in the Colonial Zone
A Domino Tournament held in Parque Colón in the Colonial Zone.

Dominó Dominicana / Dominoes Dominican Style

The way Dominicans play dominoes is not played by the legal rules according to the Domino Pros worldwide. Dominos Dominican style is a little more shrewd and requires some skill and fast thinking. First, for a good player, they usually have their Frente or their favorite partner. They know each others style and moves and even hand and facial signals. The language of the body is a big part of their game. This, it seems, is the reason Dominican domino players make so much noise. So they can cover their signals with distractions, noise and useless banter.

Playing the game “Dominican style” takes a little relearning of what you were taught. Dominicans have a few little deviations from the rules and made the game their own. Make sure you know which style you are going to play if you attempt to play in the street. There are extra points for different moves. The team in the lead does not give up position; hence the starter is not rotated. The shrewdest controls the game and makes it hard for the underdog to gain the lead. Just be aware of the differences and all will be fun.

A Domino Club in Los Molinos, Santo Domingo Este. This is some serious playing.
A Domino Club in Los Molinos, Santo Domingo Este. This is some serious playing.

I finally figured out how they play for money. If you watch a game where the money is passed around it can look very confusing. One player will pass whatever is the given amount of cash, let’s say $5 pesos. Then you’ll see that player that just got $5 passing it back to another player. I finally figured it out that when someone cannot play their turn they have to pass money to the player that laid that tile. And so it goes. If the next guy can’t move he passes money also. Sometimes when the big boys play they will agree on larger amounts of money to be passed, maybe even $100 pesos.

Wednesday afternoon in Parque Duarte, Colonial Zone the neighbors are relaxing with a friendly game of dominoes as Buenagente, The Dominican Dog Blog dog, looks on.
Wednesday afternoon in Parque Duarte, Colonial Zone the neighbors are relaxing with a friendly game of dominoes as Buenagente, The Dominican Dog Blog dog, looks on.

If you want to try out your hand at a game of Dominican-style Dominoes. First, walk over to a game being played and watch. Then when you get an opening, ask if you can play. Maybe buy a jumbo Presidente beer or a bottle of rum then ask if you can play. A little bribery can never hurt. Or, if you see an empty table ask if you can set it up and pull up a few chairs. Buy a drink, spread around the plastic cups, maybe a can of clamato. They will come.

Funny Video

This is a funny video of a race at the Autodromo Race Track in Santo Domingo. The winners of the Donut Competition/ Competencia de Ceritos. Just to show how important dominoes are here in Dominican Republic. After the racers did all their donuts (this is what the competition was, who could do the best donuts on the track). These winners of the race did a funny and pulled a Domino table out of the trunk and set it up on the track. Dominoes! The most important sport of the pais!

Christmas time some neighbors meet for a friendly game of dominoes.
Christmas time some neighbors meet for a friendly game of dominoes.

Some Domino Facts and Trivia

*Domino words – Fichas – the name of the domino tiles; Repiter – repeat – when a player can keep adding tiles of the same suits; Mata – (literally kill) when a player blocks attempts by an opponent to and helps out his partner; Tranqua – to lock – player plays the last ficha in a suit and no other player can play.

*Some of the presidents of the Dominican Republic have sets of dominoes with their faces printed on them. Wonder where we can get a set of those Dominos!?

*The name ‘domino’ is thought to come from the French word for a Christian priest’s winter hood, which was black on the outside and white on the inside. ‘Domino’ is also a style of mask featuring a black and white motif.

*Domino tiles are usually twice as long as they are wide and usually made to be exactly half as thick as they are wide so they can stand on edge without falling over. A domino tile can be of any size, but is typically about 1 inch wide and 2 inches long.

*Six Dots – Since returning to the states, I have learned some other games that can be played with dominoes besides Dominican-style, but my first domino game remains my passion. To play Dominican style Dominoes one must have a traditional set of Dominoes that only has up to 6 dots.

*Pins – The “pins” are the little metal dot in the center of the Domino that keeps it a smidgen lifted off the table. It makes it much easier to spin and mix the dominoes. Also, I think the pin makes a louder sound when the Domino is smashed onto the table. One can spin the Domino when they are about to win the game, it’s a subtle way to say “I’m cool but neener neener neener! I’m gonna win!”

*The game of Dominos in the past seemed to be played by the older people, los viejitos. Now it seems that the younger generation has come to love the game. Even though it is still mostly a Latino game it has come to be loved by many ages and ethnic groups more and more. People have discovered that it is not only a childhood game.

A Domino tournament held in Parque Colón in the Colonial Zone and some very serious players
A Domino tournament held in Parque Colón in the Colonial Zone and some very serious players

*There are many domino tournaments throughout the world where there is big money involved. The official tournament season starts in February with the big final tournament played in August. A tournament held August 25 and 26, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. presented a total cash award for 1st place at US$50,000.

*ESPN Deportes, the Spanish version of ESPN, started covering the World Domino Tournaments. It became so popular that they now have the tournaments on ESPN2. They cover both the singles and doubles games. It seems that the games passion, trash-talking, and table-smacking that is a crowd drawer on the streets is also what draws people to watch the game on TV. The game has suspense, energy and strategy. It is turning into “the next big spectators’ sport”.

*Maybe in time there will be a TV show like the Celebrity Poker shows on Television. Celebrity Dominos..you heard it here first…..

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.