Pagentry + chaos = Dominican Carnival

Mar 6, 2011

Music so loud you feel the thump of it in your veins, ear drums, heart and toe nails,
melted into a throng of masqueraded people,
bodies so close that the whole crowd bends and sways as one,
poked in the eye by the sequined wing of a glitzy devil passing by,
a confetti storm raining from the sky,
sirens, horns, and the irony of American music fight for air space creating an ironic orchestra,
people with their hands as a barrier to protect their darriers from the firey force of the pig's inflated bladder on a rope swung by costumed devils . . . .pagentry + chaos + noise + costumes + craziness = Dominican Carnival

Last week we went down to La Vega, which is 20 minutes down the mountain, to the second largest carnival celebration in the country.  I do not believe I can adequately describe the experience of it all - it was unlike anything I had ever seen.  We hadn't even parked the van before we could tell that things were gonna get a little whacky!
Don't look now, but there's a monkey in the van window!  He accosted us at a stoplight . . . he was asking for change (imagine hand held out accompanied by monkey sounds), probably for rum!

 Here are a few other key points.

1.  Several of the streets are blocked off in the town and there are homemade grandstands for the important people.  Everyone else shares the street with the parade participants, all of which are armed with inflated pig bladders, the purpose of which is to whack people on the backside.  It hurts to be whacked, I might add.

It was so crowded that many times I just held my camera in the air above my head and shot blindly!  A few times, I rested my camera lens of the stranger in front of me - when things were calm, of course.

These little girls in the grand stand captured my eye.  So lovely and sweet.

The happiest and loving-est pig bladder salesman around.
2.  The inflated pig bladders (or some variation thereof . . . cow bladder or rubber bladder) are sold to every man, woman, child and monkey.
This little guy (all of 5) tried to whack me when I went by.  I turned just in time to snap his expression of intent.

Some people know it's coming so they just brace for impact.

I find it mildly amusing that the pig bladders are covered in matching material.  You know if I had a pig bladder I would coordinate it with my out fit too.
3.  Most people are in some sort of costume, whether it's a wig, funny hat, glasses, etc.  Next year I will be better prepared!

Simple can be very effective.
Jon was really close to wearing his grass skirt, boa and horned hat, but decided against this combo at the last minute - whew, that could have been really embarrassing!

I love how Dominican men are so secure in their masculinity that they don't shy away from glitter, sequins and feathers.

And then on the other hand . . . . . . however, I don't think this guy was Dominican.
NICE makeup job.  This guy was really pretty, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

To think that I almost wore my sequined bra!
4.  The level of noise is indescribable!  It is like a ginormous party (think New Year's Eve marries Halloween, and their baby would be Dominican Carnival!) There is competing music (some of which is American!), horns, sound affects, etc.

Lots of characters on stilts, too.

Kate and Dave (new friends that are new to the island.)  

Kate and not Dave.
5.  The parade costumes are amazingly fancy, flashy and LARGE!  Many of them have a 5-6 foot wingspan.  I can't imagine how hot they must be in there . . . .some of them have those camel back water systems on the inside so that the people can stay hydrated as they are walking around whacking people in the warm Dominican sun.

I have a collection of photos of my friend Donna with various costumed people.  This one is particularly amazing because Donna found a Dominican man taller than her - which is uber rare!

He ditched his outfit but kept his crown.


Fresh from the port -o-potty.
Scary Larry.  Do you like the security with this guy?  Like anyone was gonna mess with HIM!  Every crowd of costumed people had their own security, though we could not figure out what their real purpose was . . .it was NOT crowd control!

This fully sequined costume was BLINDING it was so sparkly.  The sun rays bouncing off of it made it like a diamond encrusted suit.  

BIG man.  Little hat.  Great smile.


  1. What fantastic pictures! You really have captured the energy. I love the depth of field you are using, it really draws attention to the subject beautifully.

  2. I laughed out loud at several of those captions....and now I am a little speechless!! Wowzers :}


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