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Carnival comparsa
 
Two diablos cojuelos and one lechone, Carnival comparsa, ; Asociacion Carnavalesca de Massachusetts; Lawrence, Massachusetts; Photography by Greg Cook
Two diablos cojuelos and one lechone, Carnival comparsa,
Asociacion Carnavalesca de Massachusetts
Lawrence, Massachusetts
Photography by Greg Cook
 
Lechones; Carnival comparsa; 2012: Lawrence, Massachusetts
Mirabal family on the front steps of their home; Carnival comparsa; 2013: Lawrence, Massachusetts
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Asociacion Carnavalesca de Massachusetts
Lawrence, MA
The Asociación Carnavalesca de Massachusetts brings a bit of Dominican Carnival to the United States. The group is led by Stelyn Mirabal of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Twelve years ago, he saw the need to preserve Dominican folkloric traditions in Lawrence, where there was (and is) a sizable Dominican population. He formed a comparsa (meaning a group of elaborately costumed people who participate in the carnival parade) to take part in Lawrence's 2nd Dominican Parade. In 2006, he decided to go bigger and brought back 16 masks at the same time. Currently, there are 75 people in his comparsa Stelvyn's home city of Santiago Los Cavalleros is known for its masks, which are called lechones (meaning pig). They are considered tradicional costumes and are relatively simple; the masks represent pigs or ducks. Suits from the city of La Vega are larger and more elaborate and are referred to as fantasia. The lechones play the role of vejigantes, those who protect the people in the carnival, who at one time were members of the royalty. Vejigantes carry and swing inflated cow bladders to keep the crowd away from the parading comparsas. Here in the States, these cow bladders have been replaced by colorful balloons. It was Stelvyn's uncle who taught him and his cousins the carnival traditions of mask making and parading. Now, at 42, carnival has become a family affair, " In fact, my mother and my sister, they all dress up. . . My father, a tailor, he used to make the suits." The masks are made from a mold of clay and covered with a paste-like papiermché. The masks are shined, painted, and decorated. Although Stelvyn knows how to make the molds and papier-mâché masks, he prefers to import them from the Dominican Republic. The more elaborate diablos cojuelos costumes are professionally made using real teeth, horns, and skins, mainly of cows. The Asociación has more diablos cojuelos than lechones because to be a lechone, one has to know how to crack the whip and dance.One finds Spanish, African and Catholic influences in the tradition. Stelvyn points out a distinguishing feature of the lechones,"The way we dance is an African dance. So it's passed generation to generation. We dance different from the guys from La Vega. They jump," he says, referring to the diablos cojuelos. ". . . When we move through the crowd, we try to be like the best horse there is, the Paso Fino."
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