Archeological evidence from La Vega Vieja indicates that Carnival has been celebrated in the area since the mid-1500s – and in the intervening period they’ve got really quite good at it. A twenty-block promenade is set up between the two main parks, along which parade platoons of demons in impressively horrific masks, the making of which is something of a local specialized craft. Many city dwellers who spend their days as hotel clerks, bankers or auto mechanics use much of their free time perfecting mask making; in addition to papier-mâché, they often use materials like bull horns, bone and sharpened dogs’ teeth. If you’d like to buy one, try asking at Hotel Rey or in the new Museo de Vega; expect to pay at least RD$1000, depending on how elaborate the design is. Better still, head to Santiago and visit “El Mambo” . Accompanying the parades are blaring loudspeakers and food and liquor vendors that animate and feed the crowds, which average up to seventy thousand each afternoon – many of them watching from rooftops.

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