Sunday was the beginning of Carnaval month! Yes, Carnaval MONTH! Every Sunday for the month of February there will be carnaval celebrations all over the country!
This past Sunday, I went to La Vega. My friend Alex runs a tour that is more like a party bus. It's round trip to and from La Vega and open bar. It was so much fun to go with a bunch of Dominicans. I went with John and Susan and there were a couple people from Nebraska as well, but the majority of the people on the bus were Dominicans. My Dominican friends Milton, Alex, and Jorge, and some of their friends whose names I forget stuck with the three us most of the protecting us from the blows and letting us in on the best places to go. It was so much fun! There were a ton of people on the street eating, drinking, dancing. Also, there were people in costume going around swinging these very hard things to hit people in the butt. The men were begging the devils to hit them. Evidently, with enough rum, you can't really feel the blow... until the next day! I got tapped a couple times, and then I got one huge blow because one of the guys in my group said I had to experience it. One of my thighs is significantly larger than the other and black and blue now, but it's all in good fun! :) In La Vega a ton of streets are blocked off and in off of main streets are "caves" that have a DJ and there's a ton of dancing. When flags are spotted, everyone rushing to sides to protect themselves from the devils and, mostly men, but some women were there too, jump into the street so the devils hit them. It's hillarious to watch people so happy and laughing and then go into intense pain after being hit.
Evidently, the first carnaval celebration is nothing compared to what's left to come!
I plan on attending carnavals in Santo Domingo, Santiago, hopefully Bonoa, and La Vega again.
I've heard two explanations for this: to get the bad spirits out of you, and in honor of the slaves when they were beat in the sugar cane fields.
This month, I'm going to many lectures, interviewing Dominican folklorists, and attending many carnaval celebrations as well to learn as much about this tradition as I can. It's so interesting... and so much fun!
There are different characters in every city. La Vega has devils. Some were gorgeous elaborate costumes, I saw people covered head to toe in mud, and then I saw these incredibly scary devils. I don't even know how to describe them, but they were the scariest creatures I've ever seen!