“El Diablo de Gentrificacion” by Bryan Fernandez

“El Diablo de Gentrificacion” installation.

“El Diablo de Gentrificacion” (The Devil of Gentrification) is an installation by multidisciplinary artist Bryan Fernandez. The work features two paintings linked by a twisted manila rope as a representation of the whip carried by the "Lechones" of carnaval in the Santiago province of Dominican Republic.

If you're wondering how a carnival symbol came to represent an issue such as gentrification, you need only learn some history of Dominican Carnival and the "Lechones," also known throughout the country by their more prominent name, the "Diablo Cojuelo" (Limping Devil).

"Lechon," "Diablo Cojuelo" with twisted manila rope whip.

Dominican Carnival (carnaval dominicano) is a celebration of Dominican culture and identity. Every Sunday during the month of February, colorful parades take place in every major city in the country. Dominicans of all ages take to the streets, at home or in neighboring carnival cities, to enjoy parades, shows, music, art and extravagant costumed characters. The festivities culminates with the Independence Day celebrations on February 27th.

But if you learn one version of the official history of this celebration you'll notice something interesting; "Carnival in the Dominican Republic dates back to 1520, during the Spanish colonial times." This places the early versions of carnaval before The Treaty of Ryswick (1696), which granted the western part of Hispaniola to France and the eastern part (present-day Dominican Republic) to Spain. And well before 1844, the year Dominican Republic claimed independence from the French colony of Haiti.

"Some researchers say the first carnival events took place as a celebration of a visit by Spanish colonist Friar Bartolomé de las Casas (1484 – 1566).†" "Las Casas immigrated with his father to the island of Hispaniola in 1502, on the expedition of Nicolás de Ovando. Las Casas became a hacendado and slave owner, receiving a piece of land in the province of Cibao.[15] He participated in slave raids and military expeditions against the native Taíno population of Hispaniola.††"

The Carnaval de La Vega or Carnaval Vegano is the oldest and largest of the celebrations. It takes place in La Vega province, located in the Cibao region.

Another way of understanding this; is that Dominican Carnival began as a celebration of colonialism (the first form of gentrification). And the Diablo Cojuelo, the naughtiest spirit from hell whose folklore originates in Spain, is carnival’s leading mascot.

Portrait, diptych "Dios, Patria, Libertad" with rope around wrists.
But reciting this piece of history is not an effort to dismiss what the Diablo Cojuelo and carnaval has become today. Carnaval today, is a big party to which everyone in the world is invited to dance and play. The elaborate costumes of the Diablo Cojuelo are now enjoyed as a symbol of happiness and works of art. Costume designs vary greatly based on regions, such as: Los Lechones in Santiago, Los Taimáscaros in Puerto Plata, Los Guloyas in San Pedro de Macorís, Los Pintaos in Barahona, Los Brujos in San Juan de La Managua and Los Chiveros in Dajabón, just to name a few.

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