Today – 27th February – has been Independence Day here in the DR. It marks the day when in 1844 the independence of the Republic was finally secured with the peaceful capitulation of the Haitian occupiers after a popular uprising.
The students at the colegio have been practising hard for weeks for there part in the Carnaval (Al wishes they would put a hundredth as much endeavour into their studies). As I write the music is blaring out from downtown (about a mile away, so easily heard!)
The Dominicans are a hugely patriotic people. They are very proud of their country, and take every opportunity to show this. The red, white and blue tricolor of the Dominican Republic adorns buildings tall and small, grand and poor. The flag is raised every morning at school, during the singing of the anthem. It’s not a catchy song, full of words of war and of slavery, but all the children – from 3 years upwards, sing heartily with straight backs, heads held high and hands raised proudly to hearts.
The reasons for this patriotism are not hard to fathom. The recent history of the Dominican Republic is littered with invasions, occupations, despots, and internecine feuding. From 1916 to 1924 the country was governed by the US Navy. As recently as the late 1970s the country was under the control of dictatorial despots (Rafael Tujillo – more on whom in another post, and subsequently Joaquín Balaguer). Only in the past 20-30 years has the country had anything like democratic, stable government – so in many ways this is a very new country, full of patriotic fervour and vigour.
Independence Day marks the end of ‘le mes de la patria’. The whole month of February is given over to celebrations of ‘Patriotism Month’. The celebrations begin on January 26, commemorating the birth of Juan Pablo Duarte, (for more on Duarte, read this post), and ending on February 27. It’s a month to celebrate Dominican heritage, heroes, history, and culture. Not a week seems to have passed without a national holiday (yippee) celebrating some aspect of the celebration.
We’ve been in and around Samana for the weekend (more in other posts) and so missed most of the Carnaval travelling around the peninsula. We saw some of the preparations, heard parts of it last night, saw the aftermath today, and can hear the party carrying on into tonight, so can report with certainty that the day has been celebrated with gusto.