Viceroyalty carnival of the Colonial City in Santo Domingo 2020

Dominican Republic, English, Insider Report

Approximate reading time: 5 minutes


Whenever you hear about carnival, you might imagine the beautiful Samba dancing women in Brazil with their colorful costumes during mile-long parades. But carnival in not only an exclusive Brazilian invention. In fact, this festivity has religious roots and is celebrated in many catholic countries all over the world. And within the countries, even amongst different geographical regions or even cities very distinct interpretations and variations of carnival can happen. But how do people celebrate carnival in the Dominican Republic? Is there carnival in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo?

The Dominican Carnival is in comparison to other countries not an event that happens for one week. In various provinces of the Dominican Republic, carnival is celebrated during all weekends in February. You can be sure, that if you are traveling through the Dominican Republic in February and are interested in going to the bigger Dominican cities, that there will be a lot of ballyhoo at the weekends.

What I remembered from my time in Peru is the difference between the capital city and the Peruvian provinces in terms of cultural expressions, activities and religious festivities. In 2018, I have had the chance to take part of a very strange dubious Peruvian concept of carnival in Lima:

The peculiar Peruvian way to celebrate Carnival

What do you think, when you hear the word ‘carnival’? But apart from all the Brazilian Samba carnival we imagine, there are several other places in the world where people celebrate carnival. Read this blog article to find out more about the peculiar Peruvian way to celebrate Carnaval. Yes, written and pronounced with an ‘a’.

I called Lima in one of my older articles the ‘least Peruvian city’, because these type of interesting happenings were rarely. That’s almost the same for the Dominican Republic. You can discover ‘the real Dominican Republic’ out of the capital city of Santo Domingo. All sorts of cultural festivities usually take place in the provinces and other cities.

Thus, I was kind of surprised to see, that there is a carnival in Santo Domingo AND in the Colonial Zone. You would actually expect from the oldest city on the American continent in a strictly religious city some kind of dedication to carnival. But the parade I visited on February 22 in 2020 in the Zona Colonial was in fact the first edition of its kind.

History needs to be written and habits need to be repeated often enough before becoming tradition. This little carnival parade was one of the first attempts for a yearly repeating event. In this case, the carnival in the Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo was organized by the Pan American Round Table of the Colonial Cit and the Ministry of Tourism of the Dominican Republic and got the name “Viceroyalty carnival of the Colonial City”. Very noble.

The First City of the Americas, home of the first Viceroyalty of the New World, will be filled with culture, talent and music with the staging of a colorful parade of troupes and characters, to the delight of the public. The Viceroyalty Carnival of the Colonial City seeks to arouse interest in history, cultural heritage and traditions. It is organized by the Pan American Round Table of the Colonial City and the Tourism Cluster, with the sponsorship of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture. Governor Nicolás de Ovando, Viceroy María de Toledo and Viceroy Diego Colón, accompanied by their court, Buffoon and a troupe that will pay homage to a Dominican painter, will lead the parade.

For me on the first glance interesting to note, that apparently there is no connection at all to the Catholic religion. Instead, it gives more the impression to be announced as a historic masquerade ball. Especially the teaser picture reminded me somehow to the ancient traditional carnival from Venice in Italy:

Copyright by MITUR

As always, (valid) information are very difficult to obtain in the Dominican Republic. This concerns all sectors, but especially when you’re looking to find out something about an organized festival. Information usually spread in this country by hearsay and aren’t barely communicated electronically. It was for me even difficult to find out any background information about that festival. There isn’t any website to read a bit more about it. Simply couldn’t tell, which edition it is. According to Instagram Hastag #carnavalvirreinal the first picture was uploaded on March 10, 2018 by stodhohotels. I guess, that’s the 3rd edition of the Viceroyalty carnival of the Colonial City in Santo Domingo.

I was definitely curious about how they want to interpret carnival and if the predicate “Carnival” was even vindicated. So let’s find out!

And the parade is really sweet. Probably the shortest carnival parade of the world:

They were marching through a few streets of Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone and then ended up at Parque Colón, the central square of the city where for example the first cathedral of the is Americas is located.

At the end of the convoy it was quite mixed and it seemed to me that everyone could join and participate. That was quite fun so I decided to join the people:

Many little horse-drawn carriages carried some probably important personalties through the streets of the Zona Colonial. They all seemed to very very happy not having to walk all the way:

Who could afford more than just one horsepower came directly with a motorized vehicle to drive the way:

The prestigous Hotel Billini from the Colonial Zone came with their tiny little transportation vehicle

Those who weren’t equipped with horses or cars have had to walk through the Colonial Zone. Especially the walking orchestra did quite a good workout walking all way AND holding and playing their instruments.

As mostly during events in the Dominican Republic, it can get quite messy and maybe even chaotic. Same happened when I had to stop where I stood at the end of the video and had to wait for minutes. No one was moving forward and a little congestion was created. That’s why I decided to brake out of the convoy and go behind the stage.

Life as a giant dwarf is hard: He simply needed to take a rest after walking the streets on stilts.
Some happy women in their colorful dresses during the Viceroyalty carnival at Plaza Colón

Another funny thing was, that the show officially started and the stage wasn’t even ready and still needed some preparation:

That’s why the sound was at the beginning not the best quality and very quite. It was almost not possible to hear what the woman and the man were saying:

From the little bit I understood, they crowned the new king of the Dominican Republic. And he hold a very funny inauguration speech (in Spanish):

All in all, I must say that this tiny parade was funny to watch, had no religious touch and was not as royal as I expected. Okay, I mean there were the horse-drawn carriages transporting some very important people of high degree. But compared to the dress of the promotional picture, the old king looked a bit more royal than the new king:

That’s how the Colonial Zone interpreted their understanding of a Carnival. I hope to have given some interesting insights into the young carnival culture of Santo Domingo. And that you liked my article. If so and you would like to never miss an update in the future, please subscribe to this blog and follow it on Social Media!

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