Los Diablos Cojuelos en La Vega Carnaval

Trip Start Oct 16, 2007
Trip End May 09, 2008

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Flag of Dominican Republic  ,
Sunday, February 24, 2008

One of the reasons we decided to come to the DR in February was that February is Carnaval month!  Every Sunday in February there are carnaval (or carnival) celebrations throughout the DR, with the biggest celebration in La Vega.  Usually the last Sunday of February is the biggest and best, so we planned to be there!

We weren't so sure about transportation and safety there, and opted to go with a tour group from Cabarete.  The trip included everything from transportation, lunch, VIP area, security to open bar on the bus.    We met at Agualina resort in Cabarete at 8:00am for the tour, and ended up waiting almost 2 hours because apparently there were more people that showed up than they planned, and they didn't have enough buses to accommodate all of us.  So much for great organization.  There were 70 of us, mostly 20-something year old Norwegian girls 'studying' Spanish here in the DR.  Maybe a third of them were there with their local Dominican boyfriend.   This is what we call a real cultural exchange.  While we waited for an hour or so for the 3rd bus at 9am or so, they opened the bar.  Once we got going on the road they were drinking heavily and dancing in the bus, with loud meringue music blasting.  See pic.  The bus had to stop every half an hour or so to give them a pee-break on the side of the road.

We got to La Vega later than expected, around 1:30pm or so.  We were so late that our restaurant gave away our reservation, and we had to wait another half an hour to eat lunch.   The lunch was great.  A typical Dominican meal of roasted chicken, rice and beans.  But by the time our huge group got our meals, we only had 5-10 minutes to eat!  We then headed to "The Cave," the VIP area for one of the groups participating in the Carnaval.  We hung out in this area for the rest of the afternoon.  What was cool about "The Cave" is that the groups of the Diablos Cojuelos, "The Mischievous Devils", running down the streets, would come into the cave, and start jumping and dancing around to the loud music.  The announcer in the cave would yell out the names of the groups over and over again as they danced, pushing them into a frenzy.

One painful tradition of the carnaval is that the Diablos hit people with vejigas, dried cow bladders filled with air.  They actually hit people quite hard on the butt, and it is VERY painful to be hit.   I wasn't as careful as I should've been and got hit 3 times on my left buttock, which is still bruised now, several days later!  OUCH!

In general, the carnaval was not as crazy and crowded as we thought it would be.   There weren't many people dancing, most people were watching, and trying to avoid being hit by the Diablos coming through the streets.  The music also didn't seem as traditional as we thought too.  The music seemed to be latin-techno type of music, and the diablos didn't really do any special type of dance - they mainly just jumped around, which was a little disappointing.  However, the costumes of the Diablos are amazing.  Lots of brilliant colors and some of the masks had really engaging facial expressions (see pics and a video here).  The guys in the costumes must've been dying because it was so hot and they were under the thick layers of their costumes.

Overall, it was definitely very interesting to experience the La Vega Carnival, and we got to see some fabulous costumes.  If you are in the DR during Carnaval season, go for it. 
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