Feb 1: Carnival

Given the excitement and noise around the Christmas celebration here, which is a pretty quiet celebration where we’re from, we weren’t really sure what to expect at carnival. A celebration known for its parades, celebrations, and all that goes along with that.
Carnival is a pretty big celebration here. It takes place each Sunday throughout February, culminating with a large party at the end. I’m not sure with the history but it is tied in with Voodoo. This can be seen (so I hear, as we haven’t seen the parade yet) from the many masks and costumes that are worn as a central part of the celebrations. Two of the prominent characters are the lechon (piglet) who represents the devil, and a pepin (a cross between duck and cow). Each sunday there are large parades around town as different groups compete for the best costume. A key part of this is the carrying of vejigas (inflated cow bladders) to hit each other on the behind. We’ve heard that most of them are rather soft, but some people fill them with heavier substances that can leave quite a welt. La Vega is known for having one of the largest carnival celebrations (certainly one of the most sponsored from what we’ve seen), so we really weren’t sure what to expect. [Ed: Most of this was gleaned from the Lonely Planet Guidebook to Dominican Republic and Haiti].

All-in-all we don’t have too much to report. In the morning a couple people walked around for an hour or two blowing those annoying stadium blow horns, and a van drove around for a while blasting music out the open back door from a rather large stereo in the back. Other than that the music played as normal for most of the day from the local drinking establishments. I guess the rather constant downpour of rain probably kept a damper on things, but it looks like the celebrations generally keep to the city center.

It’s hard to get a sense of what people around here really think about it. Clearly there are many that prefer to avoid it due to the voodoo history, and satanic representations. Others seem to view it as a fun family event and look forward to the parade and associated festivities. A few of course just head to the pubs.

Me, I take it as a good sign that there is more local exitement celebrating Christs birth than the Devil!

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