Carnaval in La Vega, Dominican Republic
There is evidence that Carnaval has been celebrated in the Dominican Republic since the 1500s when it was a mostly pagan tradition, in which The Tainos, the native peoples of the island Hispanola wore body paint, masks and costumes during planting, harvest and other vital times to communicate with the gods or spirits. The arrival of the Spanish invaders and the African peoples they enslaved brought new dimensions to the Carnaval tradition. The Spanish inflected their religious beliefs, declaring the festival to be a pre-lenton celebration and the enslaved peoples brought customs, instruments and costumes from their own celebrations. The Spanish ruling class claimed that the festival was a way for their slaves to have a diversion or "let loose," but they participated as well escaping from the rigid religious norms of their daily lives.
European depiction of Taino's harvest celebration
Today Carnaval is celebrated throughout the Dominican Republic during the month of February with fiestas and parades that culminate on Independence day which is February 27th. The celebration is a reversal of reality and it is common to see people dressed (among other things) as the devil (diablo cojuelo- the limping devil, as the story goes, hurt his leg while falling to the earth from heaven when he was expelled), cross dressing men (some with lot of padding portraying a satirical chicken stealing character-"roba la gallina") and Calife (a character that uses poetry and protest to critique social life and corruption in politics). Others wear masks and dance teams wear colorful costumes and perform along the parade route. During the festivities passerbys and characters carry "Vejigas" used to hit onlookers.
Men dressed as Roba la Gallina
This year the Las Terrenas Carnaval celebration was on February 27th and Las Terrenas International School took part in the lively festivities. After learning about Carnaval and making masks during the days before Independence Day, it was so fun to be part of the real Carnaval parade. We worked hard putting the float and banner together- luckily Jose's truck was available and he had family in town visiting - special thanks to Salim, Bianca and Fifa for all of your help getting things together- we couldn't have done it without you! We were ready to march by Wednesday afternoon. Here are some pictures of us participating and spreading the work about our school.
The Las Terrenas International School-mobile on parade
The students had so much fun getting dressed- here are Esther and Ana Evelyn in their colorful costumes
Close up of the beautiful float- the butterly is a nod to last year when the preschool program was here and the school was called Mariposa Azul School
Mercedes and Juan Luis striking a pose while waiting to begin the parade
Students and children from our neighborhood at the Rec-Center ready to go!
Ana Evelyn, Sisa, Safia and Annette on the back of the truck
Parents, students and teachers proudly carrying the banner
Oscouris and the string of flags that reflects the nationalities represented at LTIS
Esther and her mother ready to march
It was great to share something beautiful and in the spirit of the event that also reflected our school philosphy of "Education with roots and fruits." Roots- respect, knowledge, compassion, creativity and justuce. Fruits: multi-cultural community, friendship, excellent students, responsible citizens, good leaders and critical thinkers. Such a fun day!
Here are the sites I used to research Carnaval. If you would like more information I highly recommend the third link- it is a great research piece written on the origins of Carnaval in the Dominican Republic and gives a great informative overview about celebrations in different communities, Carnaval folklore and different characters with interesting details.