Dominican Republic Warmly Welcomes Demons and Devils to Its Streets

Country’s Annual Carnival Season Begins in February, Honoring Dominican Independence, Music and Culture

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, Feb. 2 /PRNewswire/ — In what is typically a quaint town in the central region of the Dominican Republic (DR), La Vega’s streets come alive with countless tourists and locals every Sunday in February thanks to Carnival, one of the country’s most anticipated festivals. At this time each year rhythm fills the air as traditional Merengue and Bachata music inspires crowds of onlookers to shake their hips to the blaring beats. The enticing smell of fried plantains and sweet sugar cane intoxicate those present as they anxiously await the guests of honor: mesmerizing “demons” and “devils” dressed in colorful costumes and masks with accentuated features that parade through the streets of La Vega.

Although Carnival attracts enough partygoers to fill La Vega’s hot spots each Friday and Saturday during Carnival season, the majority of revelers flock to the city’s streets on Sundays to watch and witness the most extravagant part of the festival — the parades. This weekly spectacle features participants dressed in elaborate devil costumes that are created by craftsmen months in advance. The costumes feature a myriad of colorful hues accented with wings and bells with every intricately-designed mask containing horns and embellished features with sharp teeth.

While other masked characters make an appearance at the parades, the devils, also known as “Diablos Cojuelos,” take the leading role. In honor of the DR’s independence from Spain in 1844, participants wear devil costumes featuring eccentric designs that mock the appearance of the Spaniards, their former colonizers. Onlookers of the procession are labeled as “sinners” while the devils are known as “punishers.” This sets the scene for audience participation. For their role, the punishers march through the streets using water balloons and other harmless “weapons” to discipline sinners who walk amongst them. While part of the fun, the history of the act is said to have evolved from a time when overly-crowded streets turned into rowdy mobs. Traditionally, the devils discipline the crowd in an attempt to protect their fellow costumed characters.

Even though the parades eventually come to an end, the partying does not. Each Sunday night the devils blend into the crowd and interact with the attendees. Dominican cuisine, Brugal rum and Presidente beer flow freely and the dancing carries on until dawn.

With the unlimited partying and the exuberance of Carnival’s many parades it is easily understood why the celebration attracts crowds from around the globe. In fact, La Vega’s population of approximately 150,000 nearly doubles during Carnival each year, making it one of the largest festivals in the Caribbean. The town lies approximately one-half hour south of Santiago and one-and-a-half hours north of Santo Domingo, both of which offer daily flights into their international airports and a wide selection of accommodations.

Another option for festival seekers are the Carnival events held in the capital city of Santo Domingo. While the events are of a smaller scale than La Vega, the sights, sounds and flavors are just as fantastic. Carnival 2006 kicks off on Sunday, February 5 with celebrations building in size each week until the close of season. In La Vega, Carnival’s last day is February 27 while in Santo Domingo the closing day festivities occur on March 5. Tickets are not necessary but those interested in attending are encouraged to book their hotel stay as soon as possible. A listing of DR hotels is available at http://www.dr1.com/ .

Rich in history, the Dominican Republic’s first tourist was Christopher Columbus in 1492. Since then, it has developed into a diverse destination offering both Dominican and European flavors. At 10,000 feet, the Dominican Republic is home to the highest point in the Caribbean. It also features some of the best golf courses and beaches in the world, the largest marina in the Caribbean and is a chosen escape for celebrities, couples and families. For more information on Carnival, accommodations, activities and other attractions, visit http://www.dominicana.com.do/ or call 1-888-374-6361.

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