For almost 500 years, February has marked the momentous celebration that is Carnival in the Dominican Republic. More commonly known as carnaval dominicano, the whole nation erupts into color on every Sunday in February. The parades take place in every major town and city and celebrate the Dominican Republic’s rich history, culture and identity. If you’re in the DR in February, attending one of these vibrant events is an absolute must!
- A Brief History of a Vibrant Tradition
- What’s It All About?
- Key Carnival Locations
- Cabarete Carnival
Carnival in the Dominican Republic is almost as old as the country itself! It is widely believed that during the Spanish colonial times, the celebration started when local inhabitants dressed up as Christians and Moors.
Most research suggests that the Carnival’s birthplace was around La Vega, the Dominican Republic’s third largest city. This makes sense, because today La Vega is home to the biggest and most vibrant Carnival celebrations!
Although every city’s celebrations have unique takes on Carnival, they all have some common themes. Visit any of the main Carnival locations and you’re bound to find large crowds gathered on the streets to watch colorful parades. The air will usually be filled with the sounds of typical merengue or bachata music.
The parades themselves are mostly made up of groups known as comparsas, all of which are dressed head-to-toe in elaborate and colorful costumes and masks. Usually, these costumes represent a specific character, each with a role to play in the festivities. Check out some of the key characters below:
Watch out: El Diablo Cojuelo will likely have a whip (vejiga) with them, hoping to surprise unsuspecting spectators with a lash or two!
Carnival is held in most towns and cities around the country. Here are some of the biggest and best.
If your arriving in the Dominican Republic too late for the February celebrations, don’t worry: this year will mark the fifth year of the Cabarete Carnival! On March 23rd at 3:30pm, the parade will start at the Callejon de la Loma, head all the way down the main street and make its way along Cabarete beach.
As with most Carnival celebrations, Cabarete has put a unique twist on its event. ‘Diablos del Atlantico’ is a workshop that invites children to try costume making and to learn about the rich history and culture of Carnival!