One of the Dominican Republic’s national festive activities is the famous El Carnaval. Taken place in February before Lent (like Fat Tuesday), El Carnaval is the cultural celebration of Easter. In particular El Carnaval is celebrated among many Latin American countries. Locals celebrate by attending a large parade with people wearing extravagant and sometimes scary costumes. Each city has its own parade. However, La Vega is probably the largest and most festive city to celebrate El Carnaval.
Some of things we experienced were the loud music (surprisingly a lot of American music like LMFAO), the myriad of colorful masks and outfits, and the infamous “pig bladder” that the people in costume use to hit you in the rear end. It can be overwhelming at times but it is really fun at El Carnaval.
Here are some tips to survive and enjoy El Carnaval:
1. Go in a group – There were 8 of us in Comunidad 13 who attended this year and we came as 2 groups. It can be easy to get lost with the rushing crowds of people while music blasts from all over the place. Having at least someone you know by your side can be extremely helpful.
2. Prevent getting pickpocketed – Try not bringing any valuables, like a lot of money, a wallet, fancy jewelry, etc. You can bring a camera but just make sure you hold on it tight. There have been several attempts of pickepocketing from past experiences. Just be smart.
3. Watch out for your rear end – Like I mentioned before, there are people who sneak up behind you and smack your bottom with a football-like rubber ball. This only happens when you are walking down the parade; however, you can stay in the bleachers and watch the parade from the sides. It was kind of painful and stung for about a minute.
4. Have fun and be safe– El Carnaval is not for everyone. Although, our experience was really exciting and memorable. You can order drinks cheaply like soda and virgin margaritas too!