What happen in La Vega, Tay in La Vega
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On the mean streets of La Vega
Have you ever wanted to watch a parade of characters who resemble villains from multiple series of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, all the while covering your own ass, literally, to keep it from being hit by said characters, with a multi-colored, rock filled faux sheep’s bladder? What’s that you say? You need merengue played at full volume and a boisterous Mardi Gras type crowd around you? Well say no more, and welcome to the world famous La Vega ‘Carnaval’.
This carnaval celebration is held every week in February all over the Dominican Republic, leading up to the weekend of the 27th of February, which is not only the culmination of Carnaval, but also the DR’s independence day. Party. With a capital P. Throughout the DR, the Carnival that takes place in the town of La Vega is widely considered to be the largest and certainly the most authentic in the nation. The town itself is little more than an agricultural town and rest stop on the way to the Capitol during the other 11 months
The Sunday we chose to check out this madness, and submit our butts to a little sheep bladder smacking, was unusually hot. The parade was in full swing although the ‘demons’ weren’t wearing their masks, but were drinking water nonstop through little tubes connected to the camelbaks under their garments. The heat had no effect on the crowd, and I’m sure it boosted the sales of Brahma Light, the official sponsor of this years Carnaval.
Upon arrival to the madness we promptly met up with, and immediately lost to the crowd, other Peace Corps volunteers. For a moment we created a little gringo oasis in the vast expanse of Dominicans. This quickly proved to be a double edged sword. We had allies in the defense of our rear ends, friends with whom we could stand back to back. However any large gathering of English speaking non Dominicans always garners attention. And so, as we made our way through the crowd , ducking and dodging the swinging sheeps bladders, we suffered many casualties. Bob got it the worst, separated from his battle buddy out in the street, he was fair game and the demons descended upon him, and I venture to say that he is still having trouble sitting to this day
After the sun went down, there was an unspoken cease fire throughout the city and the people and party goers left their balconies, and stepped away from the walls and headed for the park in the center of town.
A free concert was about to start in the park and we headed that direction. We decided while on the way to the show, that we would take on a new mission as well. I like to call it “Operation: Chimi”. A ‘Chimi’, not to be confused with its texmex cousin with the last name ‘Changa’, is a street vendor sandwich akin to a burger. The meat is pressed flat, and topped with a combination of a shredded cabbage salad and a myriad of dressings yet undisclosed. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love street food. We found a street lined with vendors selling any and all kinds of food fried, stuffed, grilled, and baked. Within moments our motley crew was silent, mouths stuffed with unwholesome chimi. Food stuff fell from our lips as we all chewed in agreement that this my friends, was five star street food at its finest. Plastic chairs if you so choose to sit, and an assortment of bottled beverages from paper bags to wash down the yummy goodness.
That night they broke out the big guns for the concert. We were treated to the sweet Merengue, Bachata, and Reggaeton sounds of Tony Dize. I didn’t know who he was either but the crowd sure did. Abby has had this one song stuck in her head for the past few weeks, and as it turns out the song is one of Tony Dize’s big hits. Still don’t know the name of the song but we danced like no one was watching, except a loud, drunken mob of Dominicans. After a couple of booty shaking hours under palm trees and a full moon, the concert ended and so did our night. With our ears still ringing that 1,2,3 merengue beat, we crammed ourselves into a cab that took us almost an hour to find, and headed home.