Ultima Hora newspaper reports that the carnival industry has become a RD$200 million business for La Vega, a city located a little more than an hour north of Santo Domingo. In the 80å‘s the town chose to invest in the carnival with the backing of Induveca meat products. The effort has turned the La Vega carnival into the most colorful in the Dominican Republic and probably the entire Caribbean.
Thousands of Dominicans and tourists commute to La Vega in February, in awe of the colorful masks and the revelry of the å“diablos cojueloså”. The biggest parade this year will be held on Wednesday, 27 February in La Vega.
The flow of hundreds of thousands of people to the centrally located town has had a major ripple effect on everyone. The newspaper estimates that half a million people benefit directly or indirectly, including those involved in advertising, hotels, restaurants, bars, discotheques, food and beverages, souvenirs and arts and crafts sales.
At least RD$500,000 is spent on the parade alone. The colorful show is put on by 128 groups of devilish characters in costumes that cost RD$1,800 to RD$25,000. A single mask can cost upwards of RD$1,500.
Those living in inner city homes now are taking advantage of the invasion of carnival-goers. Some residents rent their bathrooms for RD$5 (one tourist paid RD$100 to use a woman’s bedroom bathroom). City dwellers offer parade watchers chairs and cushions for RD$25 and sell them homemade food. They also rent the fronts of their homes for the placement of advertisements, with some families receiving RD$10,000 to RD$125,000 for the ads. Beverage companies pay them thousands to install vendor tents in their home patios.
Tour operators take people to La Vega, charging RD$400 for the trip. The packages include La Vega carnival t-shirts, transportation by bus, snacks and beverages on board, open bar, tour of the city and even private parties.