Did you know that Dominicans celebrate Independence Day for almost a month? Typically, the celebrations commence from the epiphany and conclude with the month of February. A quick glimpse into the past explains their joy and relief because, unlike most other nations, Dominicans had to fight for their independence twice — against Haitians in 1844 and the Spanish in 1865. Haiti was a former French colony and the decades of power struggles with the two most powerful colonists — French and Spanish — justifies the present-day revelries during the Dominican Independence celebrations. So, what was it like back then and how does it reflect in the Dominican Independence Day celebrations today? We shall dive deeper into all of that and a lot more.
- When is Dominican Republic’s Independence Day?
- La Trinitaria and The Three Heroes
- How Does the Dominican Republic Celebrate Independence Day?
- Carnivals – The Epicenter of Dominican Independence Day Celebrations
When is Dominican Republic’s Independence Day?
There is a great deal of confusion regarding the date for two reasons — Dominicans attained freedom twice and the nation celebrates its Independence Day for an entire month. However, the official Independence Day is on the 27th of February, which marks the day when ‘La Trinitaria’ first declared the nation to be free from the clutches of Haitians back in 1844. This day continues to be celebrated as Independence Day in the Dominican Republic.
Although the nation broke free from the Haitians in 1844 and the first Dominican Republic was declared, the Spanish took over in 1861. However, they had to withdraw after a strong revolt. With this, Dominicans regained freedom and in 1865, the second Dominican Republic was declared. Now that’s rare, isn’t it? Worth the month-long celebration you’ll notice in many parts of the island.
La Trinitaria and The Three Heroes
La Trinitaria was a secret society formed by Pablo Duarte, along with Ramón Matías Mella and Francisco del Rosario Sánchez. The three heroes operated through this secret society, whose sole purpose was to attain freedom. Their heroic contributions made them the three founding fathers of the Dominican Republic, and their accomplishments are the key highlights of most historical enactments during the Dominican Independence Day celebrations. So, how do Dominicans celebrate their independence today? Let’s find out.
How Does the Dominican Republic Celebrate Independence Day?
Despite being a small island nation with a history of power struggles, Dominicans continue to stand tall and hold on to their diverse culture. The flag-raising events, historical enactments, cultural and religious events, and everything else clearly showcase their unique individual heritage.
For tourists keen on absorbing the enigmatic celebrations, the best places would be Santo Domingo and Santiago. The two cities are not at a very far distance and a 3-hour drive should help cover both. While Santo Domingo is the capital city of the Dominican Republic, Santiago is the city where the revolt began. Other tourist hotspots include La Vega, Puerto Plata, and Punta Cana, which are known for their vibrant carnivals.
Carnivals – The Epicenter of Dominican Independence Day Celebrations
Dominicans are known for flashy colors, dance, and loud music which is clearly visible in all their celebrations. While all the 31 provinces have their individual events, there are some that have garnered global attention and are listed below, but before we discuss them, let’s get a common overview of what these carnivals are all about.
An Overview of the Dominican Carnivals
During the independence month celebrations, one can witness carnivals across all provinces and although each has its unique heritage, the prime figure remains the same. During all the carnivals, it is Diablo Cojuelo, or the limping devil and his Vejigas that steals the show.
If you are visiting Dominican carnivals for the first time, beware of the sounds of bursting balloons, amid which a little devil might whip you with the Vejigas or the Devil’s whip. It is made of cured leather using special techniques and can leave a victim bruised for several weeks.
In fact, the game is to keep running away whenever you see someone with a whip, just to denote how Dominicans fled when their oppressors bullied them. In fact, you’ll find many Dominicans dressed up as Diablo but in shiny shirts, broad trousers, and cloaks enamored with mirrors and bells. This is to take a dig at the Spanish Knights and the horrendous abuse from which Dominicans freed themselves.
If you are a history and culture buff, the Carnival at Santo Domingo is a great visit but if you simply want to have fun, consider heading to La Vega. Below is a quick round-up of the two most popular carnivals in the Dominican Republic.
In the city of La Vega, this carnival has a history of its own and dates back to the 1500s, when it had more to do with customs and heritage. Currently, it is one of the most commercially sponsored events and that explains why it is great for a tourist to visit.
Carnaval Domingo is a grand celebration at the capital, with representations from all 31 provinces. So, it is great for anyone who wants to absorb the culture of the entire nation. Plus, there is quite a bit of Merengue and Bachata. This grand celebration ends with the National Parade at Santo Domingo.
The National Military Parade
The famous National Military Parade is held at Santo Domingo amid soldiers, tanks, and loud music. It is headed by the President and the first lady and is a matter of national pride. The talks and speeches usually revolve around the nation’s military’s strength and ability to move forward.
Dominicans are some of the friendliest people in the world and have been through a difficult past, so they make sure to cherish their freedom — a gift many of us take for granted. Plus, it is an island nation and a developing economy, which largely relies on tourism. If you are planning a workcation or a long visit, the weak Dominican Peso might make it even more attractive.
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