Own Indigenous Identity Field Notes
Own Indigenous Identity Field Notes
The Dominican Republic has been known to be among the few countries in the world, which still maintains and upholds its indigenous culture and tradition. The country takes its traditions quite seriously. One such element of culture that is still in practice is the carnival of the Dominican known as ‘Carnaval Dominicano’ in local dialect. The carnival is celebrated in the whole month of February and it involves staging competitions and parades every weekend. The events are organized in such a way that every town in the republic offers their contribution to the festivities. The climax of the event is set to be on or near February 27th, which is the Dominican Independence Day. Locals and visitors alike wait patiently for the month due to the pomp, color, lively dancing and spirited music the event brings along with it.
The carnival involves some of the people wearing masks that symbolize some supernatural, spiritual and unknown spirit entities. This tradition has been used since way back in history by not only the Dominican people but also by people from African and Native American descent. Among most of these ancient people, the masks symbolized the seeking of attention or hiding from a greater and more spiritual being. In the Dominican islands, the natives, the Tainos, along with the natives from the neighboring islands usually had such festivals long before the Spanish people arrived. Their festivals used to be called areitos and they were mainly used to celebrate harvest times, deaths, weddings and other significant events in their calendars. Body decorations, paint, tattoos, masks and jewelry, were commonly used during these festivals (Zagano, McGonigle & Saint Augustine, 2006).
After the arrival of the Spanish people with the African slaves, the two groups brought in their traditions into the carnival celebrations. The Africans added color and fright to the masks, new musical instruments, new types of dances, new songs and humor. All these efforts were in a bid to make life a lot less hard and easier to bear. After the arrival of Columbus and the Spanish people, the festival received religion since before that it was generally pagan. The slave owners also enjoyed the festivals though they claimed that they let it be only for the slaves. The carnival has been celebrated since the 1500s. The Americans first observed the festivals in the Dominican Republic and from there the celebrations were used as an escape from the confines of the differences and religion.
Another practice that takes place in the Dominican is the Marriage ceremony. The typical Dominican marriage ceremony involves the normal process of the man proposing, and then the couple decides on which type of wedding they would wish to have. Here the preparations are mostly done by the family of the bride. In most Dominican traditional weddings, the whole bridal party is mostly comprised of the one child as the ring bearer, a flower girl, a coins bearer and a child for carrying a fancy white bible. There are godparents of the wedding who are mostly the mother of the groom and the father of the bride. They are given the name padrinos and madrinas for the father and the mother respectively. They help with the signing of the marriage certificate (Zagano, McGonigle & Saint Augustine, 2006).
The boy who carries the coins usually has 13 coins placed on a silver tray. The coins, usually 10-cent coins, are handed to the priest at some point in the ceremony. The priest then hands the coins to the groom who hands them to the bride. This tradition is meant to signify that the couple shall always share their material wealth. The mother of the groom along with the groom first enter the church, then they are followed by the mother of the bride with the father of the groom, then the wedding party usually entering in pairs including the children. Another tradition involves singing the music of the wedding other than playing tunes, which is known as ceremonia cantada. Bachelor and bachelorette parties are mostly conducted and the normal light snacks, cake and champagne tradition changed to sit down dinners. Gifts are never taken to the wedding and are however given before the wedding day (Zagano, McGonigle & Saint Augustine, 2006).
Most of the traditions from where I come from are related in some ways to the Dominican ones. In my own culture, we also practice marriage ceremonies, funeral ceremonies, harvest ceremonies but there are no festivals. However, during circumcision of age groups and age sets at puberty, there are huge feasts that involve dancing, masking and prayers for blessings. In times of drought, there are ceremonies of sacrifice giving to the Supreme Being mostly done by rainmakers. My culture respects life and hardly is there any executions offered as punishments, a wrong doer is either banished and disowned by the entire community, given physical punishment or is charged financially.
Zagano, P., McGonigle, T. C. & Saint Augustine. (2006). The Dominican tradition. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.