In the United States February is known for all sorts of things, Black History Month, President’s Day, the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day and it just so happens to be the month of my birth.
During February each weekend is filled with events, festivals, competitions, and parades. Each city offers their own events for Carnival. In modern times the festivals include colorful costumes symbolizing the Dominican religious and traditional characters like Calife, Guloya, and Diablo Cojuelo.. If you aren’t sure what or who they are, see below for a brief explanation from Wikipedia.
“While there are many characters in the various versions of the carnival across the island, there are several prominent ones featured in most celebrations:
Carnival festivities go back to the 1500s in a place called La Vega. This is over 300 years before the Dominican Republic gained it’s Independence.
Side Note: If you ever get a chance to go to La Vega, I highly recommend it. There you will find all sorts of things such as beautiful waterfalls and ancient buildings.
During the time before their independence the Dominican Republic went thru a lot. In 1492, Christopher Columbus set out on his first trip to the America’s where he arrived on the island of Hispaniola, which is known today as Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
In the United States, we almost celebrate the existence of Christopher Columbus, but something they don’t teach us is how ruthless and evil he and his crew were. It was this group of explorers that gave the island the name Hispaniola. Although he supposedly founded the Dominican Republic, there were already people living here. The original people were called Taino indians. It was reported throughout history that the total population was almost wiped out completely by diseases the Spanish brought with them and the slaughter by the Spanish.
The capital, Santo Domingo, was Spain’s first settlement, and even today you can go to the Zona Colonial to see many things that are here from where they first settled such as the fort, architecture, and more. This was to be the connection between the America mainland and the Caribbean. Fast forward to the 17th century and you will learn that the French conquered the part of the island known as Haiti, and then the entire island years later. At this time, the island came to be known as Santo Domingo (Saint Domingue).
The Dominican Republic did not adapt very well to the French culture. Even today the Haitians culture and the Dominican culture are completely different. Religions, language, food, traditions; there is no comparison. In 1804 Haiti gained their Independence. In 1809, France lost the entire island. Just as the Dominican’s were trying to gain independence the Spanish came back and recaptured a part of the east side in 1814, under the Treaty of Paris. The next few years were really rough. As Spain was leaving and the Dominican Republic was set to be their own, Haiti took over the complete island and ruled for 22 years.
This is when a secret society called “La Trinitaria” was formed under Juan Pablo Duarte. Today he is known as one of the founding fathers. The society frustrated with how their people were treated and the need for independence, planned a coup against the rulers of Haiti. “La Triniatria” victoriously established the Dominican Republic’s independence, on February 27th, 1844, with a canon shot from “Puerta del Conde” in Santo Domingo. From that day forward the Dominican Flag would be flown.
On February 27th, the president of the Dominican Republic always gives a speech to pay tribute, and the locals honor their founding fathers (Ramón Matías Mella Juan Pablo Duarte, and Francisco del Rosario Sánchez) with a huge celebration.