Tag Archives: republica dominicana

Trujillo

Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina

General Rafael Trujillo ruled the Dominican Republic as both president and an oppressive tyrant behind the standing presidents from 1930 until his assassination in May 1961. “El Jefe” or “El Benefactor” built much of the modern infrastructure of the country while holding the title of one of the cruelest dictators in the world.

Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina.
Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina.

History | “El Benefactor” and “El Jefe” | Controversies & Scandals | Trujillos Murder | Interesting facts | Trujillo: El Poder del Jefe II / The Power of the Chief video | Book of Trujillos Time | More pictures of Trujillo included in the Old Pictures of Dominican Republic slide show (new page)

Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina

Born October 24, 1891 – Died May 30, 1961

Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina was born October 24, 1891 in the city of San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic. His parents, very poor, were Jose Trujillo Valdez, into retail sales, and Altagracia Julia Molina, was a housewife considered to be a kindhearted and dear woman. His family was of Spanish, Haitian and Dominican descent.

Trujillo was a typical kid and was exceptionally involved in his studies at school. When he was 16 he got a job as a telegrapher (thanks to his Uncle) and worked in offices near Bani and also in Santo Domingo.

The young Trujillo started changing by getting into trouble. He even spent time in jail. Around 1910 he became interested in politics and joined the National Party of Horacio Vasquez. He partook in many protests of the then president, Don Isidro Jiménez and his government.

During the United States occupation (1916-1924), Trujillo enlisted in the National Guard, trained by the United States Marines, to maintain order after the occupation. Quickly rising to a high rank by 1927, Trujillo became Brigadier General and Commander in Chief of the Dominican Republic’s army.

Rafael Trujillo
Rafael Trujillo

During the Revolution in Santiago in 1930 he and his followers overthrew the government causing the president, Horacio Vásquez, to resign. Since Trujillo was in the military he had to run his takeover concealed from sight so as not to be charged with treason. On May 16, 1930 Trujillo was chosen to be president without opposition.

* During this time in history there are so many conflicting stories about what really happened. Trujillo rewrote so much of his own history that much of the original documentation was lost. How was he elected? Who killed whom? Who was behind the takeover? If you want more in depth information, I urge you to study more on your own; it is way too political and involved for me to cover here.

“El Benefactor” and “El Jefe”

General Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina - El Jefe
General Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina – El Jefe

Trujillo organized the Partido Dominicano (Dominican Party) the year after his election to president. This party controlled Dominican politics for the next three decades. During that time Trujillo was an unconditional dictator. He was called “El Benefactor” and “El Jefe”. He was General of the Army and president from 1930 to 1938 and from 1942 to 1952 and foreign minister from 1953 to 1961. The Trujillo era gave economic soundness to the country yet it did not sanction the people’s freedom.

Parque Colón after Ciclon Zenon ravished the city
Parque Colón after Ciclon Zenon ravished the city

The ravaging hurricane, Ciclon Zenon, destroyed much of Santo Domingo in 1934. Trujillo concocted a rebuilding plan to revamp the city. His new promotional slogan was “el culto al jefe”. He renamed Santo Domingo Ciudad Trujillo (Trujillo City). He also changed the name of the highest mountain of the country, Pico Duarte to Pico Trujillo (Trujillo Peak) after himself. He renamed towns and streets, had statues of himself erected throughout the country and held many celebrations, parades and holidays, all commemorating himself. In 1955 he claimed January 11 to be “The Day of the Benefactor” (“Año del Benefactor de la Patria”), Trujillo used his political control to gain great personal wealth. He received much support from the United States by becoming one of Latin America’s leading anti-Communists.

The way Trujillo presented himself generated indignation. It started conspiracies in many parts of the country by those who did not agree with Trujillo and his policies. To stop this from happening the government formed a strong Military Intelligence Service called Servicio de Inteligencia Militar (SIM) to watch for these people. Once found, they were nabbed and fated to torture or death. In this way, he kept control of his people.

Controversies & Scandals

In October 1937 Trujillo had made agreements with the Haitian president, Stenio Vincent. He stated that he would permit Haitians to cross the border. Then he changed his mind and again wanted control of the border. It was decided that if a person could not pronounce the letter r in “perejil”, the Spanish word for parsley (the R is difficult for Haitians to pronounce), they would be killed. Thus entailed a great slaughter of the Haitians in Dominican Republic.

The number of people massacred during his tyranny was never confirmed. It is said that from 12,000 to 25,000 Haitian men, women and children were annihilated. To make it look like it was not his fault Trujillo jailed some of the people that committed this atrocity, using them as scapegoats. Trujillo paid $750.000 to the Haitian government.

Trujillo began a program, “Dominicanización de la Fronterá” / Dominicanization of the Border. He favored European immigration. He had an open-door policy admitting Jewish immigrants in the 1930s when most countries were turning away the Jewish people. After the Spanish Civil War he promoted the immigration of the exiles. It is said that he did this to “whiten” the population but it has not been proved. Trujillo was of mixed descent and it is said he wore make-up to lighten his skin.

Trujillo used prisoners to help rebuild Ciudad Trujillo.
Trujillo used prisoners to help rebuild Ciudad Trujillo.

There were many more scandals during Trujillo’s rule. He was involved in an assignation attempt on President Rómulo Betancourt of Venezuelan, which made the United States and other Latin Countries to pose economic sanctions on Dominican Republic. USA tried to make the Trujillo regime volatile by ending diplomatic ties and creating severe sanctions.

Trujillo ordered the murder of the Mirabal Sisters who were political activists and revolutionaries. The sisters were involved with a group trying to overthrow the government. The ladies were driven home after visiting their husbands in prison. They were stopped and led into a sugar cane field. Here they were beaten and strangled to death.

Trujillo was also entangled in another famous scandal regarding the disappearance of Jesús de Galíndez Suárez while working for the government as a CIA agent. Galíndez went to the USA and wrote his thesis “The Trujillo Era: A Case Study of Hispano-American Dictatorship” / “La era de Trujillo: un estudio casuístico de dictadura hispanoamericana”. This thesis gave many astonishing and exposing histories on the way the dictatorship worked. Galíndez was kidnapped in New York a few days before the book was published. He was never heard from again. It is said that he was taken to the Dominican Republic to be tortured and executed.

Here are links to the story of CIA Agent Jesús de Galíndez.
*History in English (wikipedia) – Jesús de Galíndez.
*La trágica historia de Jesús Galíndez in Spanish.

Trujillo His Work and Dominican Republic Calle el Conde after it was rebuilt after the Hurricane 1936
Trujillo His Work and Dominican Republic Calle el Conde after it was rebuilt after the Hurricane 1936

Trujillo did do some good for the country. The quality of life in general improved for the average Dominican. He completely paid off all the foreign debts, which was very substantial, and the currency stayed stable. There was still poverty but the economy grew. There was a new road system built and public works services expanded. The port facilities; airports and public buildings were constructed or improved. While the public education system grew illiteracy declined. He fortified the armies and fighting forces of the country. For all these reasons he was loved by the average Dominican. The United States proclaimed Trujillo the “First anti-Communist of America”, Trujillo encouraged diplomatic and economic ties with the U.S., but his policies caused discord among the other Latin American countries. He even, unbeknown to him, aided in the start of women’s rights. The Day of the Woman is celebrated on the anniversary of the murder of the Mirabal sisters.

In 1960 during the term of President Dwight Eisenhower, all the members of the Organization of American States (O.A.S.) agreed to break diplomatic relations with the Dominican Republic. Support of the O.A.S. was lost until Trujillo stopped being a threat. The Dominican Republic was cut off.

Trujillos Murder

The Oldsmobile Ninety Eight that was used by Trujillo’s assassins 1956
The Oldsmobile Ninety Eight that was used by Trujillo’s assassins 1956

Trujillo was murdered by his own armed forces (Antonio de la Maza, Salvador Estrella Sahdalá, Lieutenant Amado García Guerrero, and General Antonio Imbert Barrera) on May 30, 1961 when he was 71 years old. He had just left the home of Doña Angelita Trujillo, located on Ave. Maximum Gomez. He was said to have been there for possibly ten minutes. Then, continuing on to the Bar Restaurante El Pony, he was shot. This ended the “Era of Trujillo”. The “goat” and his 31-year reign ended.

There is suspicion that the CIA of the USA provided the weapons for the assassins hoping to form a fresh, less reactionary government. They feared what happened in Cuba would happen in Dominican Republic and felt it was up to them to take control of another government and stop it before it happened.

The bullet-ridden 1957 Chevrolet. Trujillo was riding inside when he was assassinated.
The bullet-ridden 1957 Chevrolet. Trujillo was riding inside when he was assassinated.

The oldest son of Trujillo, Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, Jr., took over after his fathers’ death and headed the country for five months. Ramfis Trujillo, as he was known, went into exile after his term ended and became an international socialite. He died from injuries sustained in an automobile accident.

Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina is buried in Paris in the Cimetière du Père Lachaise. Many of his friends and family went into exile to Canada, France, and Spain. He died one of the richest men in the world.

The Memorial Museum of Dominican Resistance / El Museo Memorial de la Resistencia Dominicana opened May 2011. Here is a collection of more than 160,000 files, photographs, films, objects and books belonging to those who staged the resistance to the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo.

The memorial on the Malecon (Ave. George Washington) in Santo Domingo marking the place where Trujillo was gunned down setting all free from his tyranny.
The memorial on the Malecon (Ave. George Washington) in Santo Domingo marking the place where Trujillo was gunned down setting all free from his tyranny.

Did you know? – Some interesting facts

*Trujillo had 3 wives. He married Aminta Ledesma, a nice hometown girl from San Cristóbal on August 13, 1913. They had two daughters (one died early). They divorced in 1925. Then Trujillo married Bienvenida Ricardo on March 30, 1927 and divorced in 1935. Trujillo and María de los Angeles Martínez Alba, who he had an affair with, got married after his divorce from Aminta Ledesma in 1935. He had a daughter with Bienvenida one year after their divorce. Trujillo had three children with María Martínez. In 1937 Trujillo met Lina Lovatón Pittaluga and had two children with her.

*There is much controversy happening in the Dominican Republic at this time (2008) on the 47-year anniversary of his death. There was talk of trying to return the remains of Trujillo to DR and place his body along with the national heroes in the Panteón Nacional. Most of the people are strongly opposed to this idea.

*Trujillo was such a baseball lover he invited many black players from the US where they could not play because the teams were segregated. Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige, a Negro League player, went to the Caribbean and Latin America, where the teams were all integrated. He pitched for a team organized by Trujillo. He was trying to gain popularity so he created the “Ciudad Trujillo Team.” He paid Paige $30,000 for winning the Dominican championship. Paige fled the Dominican Republic with his teammates directly after being paid for fear of reprisals by Trujillo’s enemies.

*Zsa Zsa Gabor, David Selznik, Robert Mitchum, Rhonda Fleming, Shirley MacLaine, Maureen O’Hara, Jimmy Stewart, Robert Taylor, Natalie Wood, Joan Collins, were among the many famous friends of the Trujillo family.
The web site The Glamour Girls has some interesting information about Ramfis Trujillo his timeline and his life with the stars.
He also had a very hot romance going on with Kim Novak.
Another friendPorfirio Rubirosa, had dan interesting life.

The Angelita, now called The Sea Cloud, entering Port Santo Domingo.
The Angelita, now called The Sea Cloud, entering Port Santo Domingo.

*Angelita, Trujillos yacht, was the world’s largest, most luxurious and most expensive private yacht of the time. (1957). History of the yacht.

*There are some pictures of Trujillo and his yachts in the Old Pictures of Dominican Republic slide show.

*The very interesting story of General Imbert interviewed. He is the man who shot the final bullet that killed Trujillo.

*I have posted some interesting documents you can download or read online located on the Dominican News Blog. President Trujillo: His Work and the Dominican Republic 1936 and the video Interview with General Rafael Trujillo 1961.

*Becoming The Butterflies “The Political Participation of the Mirabal Sisters” This is the account of Minerva Mirabal who was the first of the sisters to become involved in the underground movements to overthrow the government.

*United States Government correspondence with the Dominican Republic Government from 1961 to 1963. Dominican Republic: Security, February 1961-September 1963 https://www.jfklibrary.org/asset-viewer/archives/JFKPOF/115a/JFKPOF-115a-008

A large propaganda mural of El Jefe, Rafael Trujillo, inside of the offices of the Partido Dominicano.
A large propaganda mural of El Jefe, Rafael Trujillo, inside of the offices of the Partido Dominicano.

TRUJILLO: El Poder del Jefe II / The Power of the Chief (General, Boss)

This documentary shows the important political and social events that occurred in the Dominican Republic between 1938-1952. Included: The invasions of Cayo Confites and Luperón, the PSP, the Juventud Democrática, the sugar industry strike of 1946, the different conspiracies, as well as Trujillo´s relations with the United States before the beginning of the “Cold War.”

To view the other movies of the series on YouTube
TRUJILLO: El Poder del Jefe

TRUJILLO: El Poder del Jefe III.

La Violencia del Poder / The Violence of the Chief.

The movie The Feast of the Goat / La Fiesta del Chivo was out in theaters as of 4/2006.

Book of Trujillos Time

The book about the reign of Trujillo The Feast of the Goats – English(at Amazon)

The story about The Mirabal Sisters, Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa, is called In the Time of the Butterflies – English (at Amazon). It is excellent reading and gives much insight into the turbulent and interesting past of the Dominican Republic.

Road Trip And Province Map

Dominican Republic Provinces and Road Trips

Explore and discover the out of the way places of Dominican Republic. The resort towns are fun but if you want to learn about the real Dominican Republic and its beautiful and colorful people you need to get out and explore the small towns and out of the way places. Take a Road Trip! Visit the out of the way places, small towns and areas that are not usually found in the tour guides. Explore the roads less traveled and see what our country and people are really like.

Province Map | Road Trips and Exploring Collections | Provinces and Capitals of DR List

The 31 Provinces of Dominican Republic (it seems that soon there may be 32 provinces as Satiago may be divided into Santiago Oeste) are as diverse as the people who live in Dominican Republic. The map below shows all the thirty-one different provinces and the one district subdivision. In time we hope to have information for all these places. The goal here is to make a map providing information for different small towns in these areas. If you would like to visit one of these places there will be information on how to get there by bus or other public transportation. Information about different hotels both small and large, some restaurants, local tour guides and places to visit when you are there. I will also include anything I feel would be useful while visiting these beautiful and interesting places in República Dominicana.

This information is collected by myself on my visits to these areas or provided by others who have visited or might even live in these out of the way places. I hope to provide information for visitors to the places that visitors normally do not know about. This way you can know the real country and its beautiful people in an entirely new fashion.

If you have any information to contribute please send me an email and I will be happy to include it here.

*Remember this information can change at any time as things do change and I cannot be in all the places all the time. Please if you find something incorrect or that is in need of updating let me know and I will change it.

Province Map

Map of the Provinces of Dominican Republic
Map of the Provinces of Dominican Republic

ROAD TRIP COLLECTIONS

San Juan
San Juan de la Maguana – History, Information, Hotels and Things To Do. (link is to old html page)

Barahona
Barahona – Information, Tour Guide, Hotels. The surrounding area Los Patos, San Juan, Quimatos, Barahona -The Town, Enriquillo, Paraíso, Canoa, Polo Magnético

Baoruco
Baoruco – Information, Things to Do, Lago Enriquillo, Neiba (Hotel). (link is to old html page)

San José de Ocoa
San Jose de Ocoa – Information, Transportation, Hotels (link is to old html page)
Rancho Arriba – Information, Transportation, Hotels (link is to old html page)

The 31 Provinces

The 31 Provinces (it seems that soon there may be 32 provinces as Satiago may be divided into Santiago Oeste), 1 District and the capitals in Dominican Republic.

Azua – Azua
Baoruco – Neiba
Barahona – Barahona
Dajabón – Dajabón
Distrito Nacional – Santo Domingo
Duarte – San Francisco de Macorís
Elías Piña – Comendador
El Seibo – El Seibo
Espaillat – Moca
Hato Mayor – Hato Mayor
Hermanas Mirabal – Salcedo
Independencia – Jimaní
La Altagracia – Higuey
La Romana – La Romana
La Vega – La Vega
María Trinidad Sánchez – Nagua
Monseñor Nouel -Bonao
Monte Cristi – Monte Cristi
Monte Plata – Monte Plata
Pedernales – Pedernales
Sánchez Ramíerez – Cotuí
San Cristóbal – San Cristóbal
San José de Ocoa – San José de Ocoa
San Juan – San Juan de la Maguana
San Pedro de Macorís – San Pedro de Macorís
Santiago – Santiago de los Caballeros
Santiago Rodríguez – Sabaneta
Santo Domingo – Santo Domingo Este
Valverde – Mao
(1/2019)

Carnival Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic Carnival / Carnaval Dominicano

Carnaval Dominicano an experience that everyone should have some time 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.

The bright colors and smiling faces of Carnival Dominicano.
The bright colors and smiling faces of Carnival Dominicano.

Carnival is celebrated the entire month of Febrero / February and many times spilling over into Marzo / March and Abril / April. The entire country of Dominican Republic celebrates filling each weekend with parades, events and competitions. Each town offers its own twist to the event. The celebration climaxes on or near the 27th of February, Dominican Independence Day.

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, Pictures and Their History | Complete list of our Videos of Carnival | Links to all the Picture Albums |

The History of Carnaval

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 to the vibrant colors, and some of the traditions of making frightening masks, 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.

Video – Slaves Abused By Spanish Captors

The first part of this video is a Dominican Carnival 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. If you cannot see the video it is located here https://youtu.be/Wasw61PULSk on YouTube.

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.
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 from 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.

Carnival Celebrations Worldwide

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

Children Dancing

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. If you cannot see this video it is available on YouTube here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4l-g4H63D5M.

Carnival Dominican style

Carnival in Dominican Rep}ublic is a colorful and vibrant part of the culture here on the island of Hispaniola in the country of Dominican Republic.

Young and old alike are part of the carnival groups in Dominican Republic.
Young and old alike are part of the carnival groups in Dominican Republic.

Carnival is a countrywide festival, with each town having its own version of the custom. Every town adds a touch of their own flair to the merrymaking with diverse masks, costumes, characters, music and methods of celebrating. Even though there are many differences the thing all the celebrations have in common is they are all charged with unbridled energy. Carnival is also very family orientated, having both young and old join in the festivities. Participating groups can consist of family units, clubs, friends, families and businesses, all can participate in the carnival parade of masked and painted creatures.

The Diablos Cojuelos with their frightening and evil looking masks.
The Diablos Cojuelos with their frightening and evil looking masks.

Of the many costumes and creatures represented the most celebrated seem to be the devils known as Diablos Cojuelos. Others are painted bodies, or bodies decorated with paper. And yet others may have animal masks or elaborate costumes. Many disguises and get-ups symbolize the opposite, a world upside down. This is where the humor enters the scene. Men may dress as women. All is the opposite of what one would expect. This can be very funny to observe. Some costumes represent the Indians or mock the dress of the conquerors and oppressors of the island, the Europeans. These costumes are a mix or all the cultures, beliefs, peoples and ideas, making for a unique viewing experience. The costumes are only limited by the imagination of the creator.

A happy little girl being held by a smiling Carnival Diablo.
A happy little girl being held by a smiling Carnival Diablo.

It is enjoyable watching the children delighting in the carnival activities. Some are afraid and hide behind their parents. The parents love getting the pictures of their little ones taken with the masked creatures. Many children like to get dressed up in masks or paint their faces. They will mask themselves in whatever they have available. It is fun to see just how creative the children can be when need dictates. The future generation of carnival parades are being spawned.

The Economy of Carnaval

Men dress up as women all in fun.
Men dress up as women all in fun.

The Carnival is very good for the economy to bring in tourists by the droves. All are coming to observe this spectacle. It helps the entrepreneurs with their home businesses creating masks and souvenirs that are all carnival orientated. The mask-makers, the trinket manufacturers, the food vendors, the transportation industry. All have a chance to make a nice profit during the month of February thanks to the carnival. Mask makers can start creating as soon as the carnival is over, preparing and designing for the following year. Readying a town for carnival usually starts immediately after the Christmas celebrations. Getting all ready to make money for the town and its people and to have a good time.

Representing the tragedy at Rio Blanco in Jimini when many people died buried under a huge mudslide.
Representing the tragedy at Rio Blanco in Jimini when many people died buried under a huge mudslide.

Each troupe will represent different regions and towns throughout Dominican Republic. A town or barrio will have his or her own unique costumes and customs. For many, each year the costumes must be different. Some burn their costumes after the carnival, which represents change or closure, while others give their used costumes to the children. These costumes are widely diverse, some made of bright materials including satin and taffeta. Some are decorated with small round and square mirrors, bells, ribbons, whistles, tiny dolls. While other costumes are fierce, repulsive and quite hideous. Many can be very beautiful and elegant. Some of the troupes portray past historical events and tragedies. There are men dressed as ladies, bodies covered in black grease, and other bodies brightly painted.

Close-up of a mask where you can see human eyes inside
Close-up of a mask where you can see human eyes inside

Carnival can be a very competitive pageant as there are prizes given for the best of the best in many different categories. With artists and participants working together to get the right fit and the look they desire. They can work all year making their costumes so they can join to celebrate and compete in this festival. Costume design and character presentations come together for the judging of the best groups in Carnival. The capital celebrations only permit up to 150 groups participating per region. Here the winners of the local Carnival events merge for this the grandest of competitions. Original masks, costumes, floats and masked dance groups fuse to create a flood of activities in the streets. There can be more than 50,000 parade participants joining in the Malecon parade in Santo Domingo with over half a million people that bombard the capital to watch and join in the carnival celebrations. All this is presided over by the King of the Carnival who is elected every year.

Carnaval Dominican Republic 2010 on the Malecon, Santo Domingo.

The Dancing Girls, Fire Throwers, Soy Dominicano and more. The flavors of Carnival Dominican style. To watch on YouTube https://youtu.be/nnol2k9EtzU

La Vega

Crowds of people at Carnival in La Vega.
Crowds of people at Carnival in La Vega.

The most popular Carnival activities are in the town of La Vega. Normally a very quiet town with not many tourists draw. During the carnival here is where thousands of people go every Saturday and Sunday during the month of February. People gather on Calle Padre Adolfo (with the cathedral lurking in the distance), in front of the Parque de las Flores or to watch the spectacular event. The registered groups, known as comparsas, participate in the Carnival parade. These groups can be well organized. Many have participated together for many years. The groups may include from 10 to 15 people and sometimes many more. The traditional costumes are carefully sewn months in advance and are very intricate and colorful.

Santo Domingo

The final Carnival Parade down the Malecon in Santo Domingo
The final Carnival Parade down the Malecon in Santo Domingo

Traditionally in old Santo Domingo now known as Colonial Zone, the night before Carnival, people lit their homes, balconies and streets. Illuminating the entire town. The boats would be decorated. There would be oranges and egg shells filled with scented water, the hole plugged with wax. These were called ojos de cera/ wax eyes. They were thrown at the crowds. The procession was held on Calle el Conde. (The Egg History: The Romans phrase Omne vivum ex ovo, “All life comes from an egg.” The egg is a universal symbol of birth and resurrection. It has been used by many cultures. The Egyptians and Greeks used eggs in their burial rituals. Mexico fills eggs (cascarones) with confetti or small prizes and throws them. Early variations, connected with the customarily riotous pre-Lenten celebrations, were filled with either perfumed or nasty-smelling colored water and sealed with a plug of wax.)

A young man selling little Diablo necklaces at carnaval.
A young man selling little Diablo necklaces at carnaval.

The Carnival celebrations held in Santo Domingo is the climax of all the carnival activities bring troupes from the entire island together with a magnificent and impressive parade held on the Malecon. The major competitions are held here with a nice sum of money to be won. The capital city is invaded with beings of all varieties, type and descriptions. They are everywhere, roaming the streets. It is not easy to distinguish the parading beings from the beings watching the spectacle as many observers wear costumes also. You may see someone with toothpicks protruding from their hair. Diving from eggs being thrown. Whips cracking. People yelling as they are hit by a masked creature on the backside. There will be debris littering the streets. People will have their faces painted. Children will have on plastic Halloween masks. There are all types of food being sold. Vendors selling their wares and trinkets commemorating the carnival. The sights and sounds of Dominican Carnival.

The Vejiga

The vejigas/ inflated bladder balloons carried by many Carnival characters
The vejigas/ inflated bladder balloons carried by many Carnival characters

Amongst all the colors, activity and music in abundance, one must always be on high alert for the vejigas/ the inflated bladder weapons and the látigos/ whips. The vejigas are a balloon-type weapon dangling at the end of a strap, toted by these wicked creatures. These balls are traditionally made of either cow or pig bladders and filled with air. They are also sometimes made of rubber these days. These are used to hit the people that happen to get in the way. Always aiming to hit on the lower part of the body but with all the commotion in the street it is a free for all. Originally these balls were used as crowd control to make way for the costumed people. It is said that getting hit brings good luck. I think it is luckier if you can avoid being hit. I suggest staying away from these weapon-bearing creatures because getting hit hurts. Getting wapped in the butt is not pleasant but it is all part of the Carnival experience.

WARNING. Do not try and block the hit if you see it coming. Just turn your butt to the weapon and let it hit there. It hurts much less on the back side than it does on the hand and other areas of the body.

Celebration Locations

The police working to control the crowds watching to try and make sure all is safe during carnival.
The police working to control the crowds watching to try and make sure all is safe during carnival.

During most carnival celebrations the la Cámara de Diputados y el Patrimonio Folklórico de la Nación/ The House of Representatives and the Folkloric Patrimony of the Nation set limitations for the safety of all involved, paraders and observers alike. Prohibited are firearms, glass bottles and any knife/machete type weapon. Also, they watch closely to make sure the vejigas are within the limits that have been set forth. No sharp edges or objects attached. They cannot be inflated to be too hard. They try to make the carnival safe and fun for all.

The most popular Carnival celebrations are:
*Carnaval Vegano – Carnival in La Vega – This is thought to be the oldest carnival celebration in the Americas. Held in the center of this small town on Calle Duarte starting at the church.
*Carnaval Bonao – La “Villa de las Hortensias” held in the Parque Central
*Carnaval Santiago. This huge carnival is held on the streets Las Carreras, Beller and Francia
*Carnaval Salcedo – Held on the main street passing by the church.
*Carnaval Santo Domingo Este – one of the newer additions to the weekly carnival celebrations.
*Carnival Santo Domingo – The capital city has the grand finale carnival parade.

Mickey and Minnie made an appearance at Carnaval Dominicano.
Mickey and Minnie made an appearance at Carnaval Dominicano.

No matter where one goes to see Carnival it is a true fusion of culture and religion Dominican style. Always a grand blend of colors, music, wild activities and exciting dances. The Diablos Cojuelos come out into the streets swinging their weapons and cracking their whips. The people are enjoying it. It is an audience participation parade in grand scale. Something that all should experience sometime in their lives.

Roba La Gallina

The Roba la Gallina or Chicken Robber is a fun part of the Dominican Republic Carnaval. These large people be it children, women or men dressed as women, walking with their umbrellas and big butts are fun to watch. Their bright smiles and big back sides shaking. YouTube link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnol2k9EtzU

Continue to learn about all the Dominican Republic Carnival Characters.