April can only mean one thing in Santiago: That Carnaval celelbrations have been over for more than a month and it's finally time to publish a blog about them! (Carnaval is celebrated every sunday in February throughout the country). Here's a post from Miranda:
Carnaval. Oh. My. Gosh. So Santiago and La Vega have the best Carnaval celebrations in the country, and we live in Santiago. The beginnings of carnaval were in Africa, specifically Egypt and the Sumerian Empire area. It came to the Americas in 1492 of course with Columbus, first in Santo Domingo then spreading into the other areas. The word carnaval originated during Cuaresma (lent) when the Catholic followers gave up meat. That was “adios a la carne”, which developed into “carnavale”, and finally, “Carnaval.” It is the most traditional and popular festival in the Dominican Republic, dating back to 1520 in Santo Domingo. The traditional costumes are the Diablo Cojuelo (limping devil), though in Santiago the characters are called Lechones or Puerco. There are also Cotui characters in Santiago that are platypus – looking creatures. Santiago is known for its spontaneous, creative, and diverse Carnaval. Santiago is such a large city, it isn’t as traditional as La Vega, so there are new groups here and there that participate in Carnaval, such as dancing troops and the like.
The costumed people and all boy children carry whips and either traditional cow bladders or a rubber balloon type thing. They hit people on the butt with them, especially unwary females. Sometimes they give you a souvenir from their outfit after they hit you. I got a couple of bells from one guy, and Nakendra (another program participant) said I’d gotten my “Mardi Gras beads”. :P There were a lot of men dressed as women and they were so stereotypically latina. They padded their butts to the point of being comical, and had seven or so inch heels. The kids were in such cute costumes too. Not only that, but there were several people riding their horses around the monument.