The beat puts an end to mundane conversations.
It carries beyond the venue, down streets and through windows.
When it hits you, your foot may begin tapping. Your head may start bobbing. Your hips could begin swinging.
For one wild week in Santo Domingo, you will be at risk of catching merengue fever at the Festival del Merengue…
As the capital of the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo has an impressive population of just over 2.5 million. Covering an area of around 40 square miles (104km2), the city provides an adequate representation of Dominicans as a people.
Where some international capitals might get swept up in their economic and political endeavors, Santo Domingo takes a number of steps to ensure preservation and promotion of the nation’s unique culture. These methods can include the development of static attractions such as museums and galleries. However, the more entertaining option involves celebrations and festivals.
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Festival del Merengue
Representing one of the nation’s traditional styles of both music and dance, the Festival del Merengue was developed by the Dominican government in the late 1980′s and has thrived ever since.
The success of the festival is based on the dance culture that has been popular in the nation for around 150 years. Representing both an African influence and a Latin flair, the music was once considered lower-class.
As it stands now, merengue is enjoyed by all ages, races, and social classes. The unique style has gradually become recognized and celebrated internationally.
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Attending the Festival
As one would expect, the festival’s main event is the music, which can be found in Santo Domingo’s El Malecón region. The tunes will be pumping day and night as these three-piece bands do what they do best. And in front of the bands? Why dancing of course.
As the national dance, you shouldn’t be surprised to see countless couples moving around as if they know what they’re doing. Without the necessary skills, visitors may be more comfortable busting a move away from the center of the dance floor.
Beyond the constant party atmosphere, informed visitors can check out a schedule to find out when the world-famous musicians and dancers are performing.
After you’ve spent plenty of time enjoying the music, make your way to one of the festival’s many food tents where you’ll be able to grab a tasty meal. And should you still have money and energy to burn, wander around the festival’s artisan stands where you can pick up a handcrafted souvenir.
When To Go
While there will always be merengue in Santo Domingo, those who plan on attending the Festival del Merengue should arrive in town towards late July/early August. Check online to find the specific dates for the year you’re planning to attend.
Expect July and August temperatures to range anywhere between 73°F (23°C) and 90°F (32°C). Though there may be rain, rest assured that spirits won’t be dampened.
Getting There & Around
Potential visitors should plan on catching a flight into Santo Domingo’s Las Américas International Airport. The airport is located around 19 miles (30km) from the centre of town.
- Mid-range accommodations: $90-120
- Meal: $8-15
- Beer: $2.50
- Book accommodations well ahead of time as the festival is a major tourist draw.
- Consider taking merengue lessons at home. You won’t stand out but you will be able to participate.
- Stick around Santo Domingo for the city’s gastronomical festival.
- Plan on getting much sleep, particularly if your hotel is near the festival.
- Just attend for a day. Enjoy a few wild nights at the festival.
- Stick around at the main stage. Some of the best parties can be found down the road.
- Traditional merengue bands consist of only three instruments: a guira, a melodeon, and a tambora.
- Admittedly much smaller, Montreal hosts its own renowned merengue festival.
- There are more Dominicans living in New York than there are in the nation’s second biggest city.
Feature Image Credit: medea_material