The carnival is the most traditional popular festivity of the Dominican Republic. It goes back to the colony, on the eve of lent when people in Santo Domingo disguised themselves to imitate the European Shrovetide.
The origin of the word “Carnival” comes from the Italian word carne vale, which means a removing of meat, as a proof of the sensual licenses given to the faithful during Shrovetide. Intense colors, music, religion are expressions of the joy and warmth of being a Dominican. Original masks, costumes, floats and masqueraded dance groups from different regions of the country come together to celebrate. In some towns the masqueraded dance groups parade the streets each Sunday of February while in other towns carnival traditions differ completely as to format and dates. For examples in Santiago the costumes represent the “Diablos Cojuelo” (devil) which are ornated with number of decorative elements: small round square mirrors, small bells, cowbells, ribbons, whistle, tiny dolls, etc. In Cotui, costumes are made of papers called platanuses and papeluses and in Montecristi, it is the Toros costumes (bulls). Each Sunday of February, Montecristi’s street are the settings for tough and violent fights between toros (bulls) and civiles (civvies) with the use of whips. Undisguised and unprotected, the toros take on the challenge of the civvies and punish themselves by voluntarily accepting the furious whiplashes inflicted on them by the toros. The origin of this rivalry dates back to the first decade of our century.
The most popular of all is in La Vega where thousands of people go out every Sunday of February to celebrate on the street.