The Dominican Carnaval party throws additional components into the mix (for better of worse): clowns with the ability to hit you in the rear with Nerf balls attached to strings or sticks.
That’s right: scary clowns with the licence to wallop whomever. My question: aren’t the clowns themselves scary enough? I mean, COME ON!
The mask have roots in ancient African spiritual beliefs; the first having represented animals possessing traits representing abilities. The Christian version of festivities tend to link the festival to this big explosion right before the start of Lent. The party goes down every Sunday in February.
Overtime, the celebration has generated certain characters that appear at almost every event. This is what I could find as to their significance (article by Ivan Erickson: http://www.dominicanmasks.com/):
Each Sunday afternoon in February, in every major
town groups of children, and adults alike shed their inhibitions and wear all kinds of costumes and masks assuming the identity of the different carnival characters. These characters, such as the chicken thief (Robalagallinas), The Bear Man (Nicolas Den Den), Los Indios (The Indians), etc., all come with their own particular folk story and invite their own corresponding traditional chant. However, the devil, is always the central protagonist in all festivities. Known by many different names; “Lechones”, “Diablos Cojuelos”, “Toros”, or “Cachuas” ; all represent the evil one. The conceptual framework that outlines the identity of all these devils is the eternal confrontation between the forces of good and evil. The Diablos cojuelos, in fact, according to popular legend dress in a colorful, and somewhat ridiculous costume that many have suggested mocks the appearance of the earlier colonizers of the Americas. The people started to view the Europeans as the oppressors. All these influences intermingle with a varied array of costumes which appear to be a product of the popular imagination.
In my town, the dressed-up figures came bounding out into the street jiggling and dancing every which way. I kept my distance the first time I ventured out, but soon found the threat of youth hitting me to be easily annihilated with the, “I-know-your-mother” look. Plus, having my old students run up to me, get intimidated, and then lightly tap me with the ball was… hilarious.