The Dominican Republic is one of the most frequently visited destinations in the Caribbean. Spread across the Hispaniola Island, with African heritage and a predominant Spanish dialect, Dominican Republic plays host to the year round golf tournaments. It is home to Caribbean’s tallest mountain peak, Pico Duarte as well as the Caribbean's lowest elevation and largest lake, Lake Enriquillo. The capital city, Santo Domingo is the site of the first castle, cathedral, fortress and monastery built in the Americas, located in Ciudad Colonial which is a World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO.
If you plan to visit the Caribbean in the spring, do not miss the pops of colors, enthusiasm, music and a cheerful ambience of the Dominican Carnival temper celebrated in Feb and March every year in and around Santo Domingo. The largest carnival, the “Carnaval Vegano” or the “Carnaval Dominicano” happens every Sunday in the month of February. Thousands of tourists and Dominicans participate in the fun filled carnival full of magnificent costumes and tropical music. Following the grand finale celebration of Carnaval Vegano on the Last Sunday of February, the Grand Carnival Parade (Desfile Carnaval en Malecón) is celebrated on the first Sunday of March.
Carnaval Vegano is the largest, oldest and the most popular carnival in the Dominican Republic which started in 1510. Happening in La Vega town which is located 2 hours (approx.) North of Santo Domingo and four hours drive away from La Romana and Casa de Campo, the carnival is filled with thousands of people and more than 100 parade groups every year. During the carnival, La Vega is brimming with Dominicans and tourists dancing together to the music and loving the magnificent parade.
Various international artists including Victor Manuel, Daddy Yankee, Prince Royce and many more perform live during the final celebration of the parade filled with merengue music, bachata dance and fearsome devils.
The Santo Domingo Carnival
The Grand National Carnival parade happens near the seaside promenade of El Malecón, held on the last Sunday in February or the first Sunday in March. During this carnival, the Ministries of Culture and Tourism recognize and award the best costumes and carnival groups. A grand parade dancing to the merengue music along the boardwalk floats concludes the carnival.
The La Romana Carnaval
The City of La Romana is one hour and 45 minutes east of Santo Domingo. It is also home to the 7000-acre Casa de Campo resort which is designed by Oscar de la Renta. La Romana is also famous for the La Romana Carnival. Several “comparsas” also known as carnival groups journey from across the nation and the world to participate in the carnival. The frequently visiting comparsas from Barahona, El Seibo, Puerto Plata, Bonao, Santiago and La Vega are dressed in impressive costumes representing their area.
These Dominican Carnivals feature various characters from the history of Dominican Republic including the most famous character - “El diablo cojuelo”. The devil faced characters wear a bright caped outfit with little rattles, mirrors, cowbells and ribbons. A mask with large horns covers the face. The diablos cojuelos also adorn a "vejiga" (an inflated "bladder"). It is used to purify the participants through the blows from the vejigas or whips.
In the past, whenever someone stole their neighbor’s chickens, they were punished by sticking chicken feathers to their bodies. "El Robalagallina" also known as "The Chicken Thief," is a funny costumed character with a large chest carrying an open parasol that goes around to small retail shops asking for chicken.
"Se me muere Rebeca" or "Rebecca is dying," is a character who begs for sweets for her gravely ill daughter and then distributes them among the children following her.
"El Califé" criticizes celebrities and public figures in playful poetry.
"Death in a Jeep" or "La muerte en Jeep" is a masked skeleton character who escorts the diablos cojuelos.
These native characters are also accompanied by Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Dorah the Explorer and various other cartoon characters. Besides telling stories, the characters dance to the music associated with the Dominican Carnival for years. One of the most popular songs is Dancing in the streets or “Baile en la calle” composed by Luis Dias being used since 1983.
So, if you get to visit Santo Domingo, you will love the vibrancy of colors, music and enjoyment that is the month of February which celebrates the Dominican Independence.