Gagá Festivities Stopped by Police in the Dominican Republic

Police stopped hundreds of Haitian nationals and Dominicans from performing ritual dances related to Gagá* on the streets of El Seibo during Holy Week (last week). The group—decked with clothes, drinks, and dances that are part of this religious ritual event—were blocked when trying to move along the neighborhoods of the city, because Mayor Gerardo Casanova refused to authorize permits for this cultural event. Participants were dispersed by police agents.

Prior to Holy Week, representatives from various churches—priests, ministers, and pastors—asked the authorities not to allow the Gagá celebrations, which, they say, “promote activities of the Vodoun religion practiced by the Haitians.” For several years, a number of religious representatives have been requesting a stop to Gagá festivities, which, they believe, interfere and are contrary to Christian tradition. [In my opinion, if this were the case, Carnival celebrations world-wide would have to be eliminated.] Meanwhile, a religious activity that took place, as it does every year, was a mock crucifixion, coordinated by Catholic priest Antonio Villavicencio of the St. John the Baptist parish.

Gagá parades, drumming, and dances—practiced mainly by people of the bateyes—celebrate the beginning of spring and renewal of life, according to sociologist Dagoberto Tejeda.

[*Gagá: “A socioreligious practice followed by Haitians and their descendants in the sugar-cane regions of the Dominican Republic; it has roots in rará, Haitian traveling groups who dance, play music, and display their rituals and traditions in neighboring villages during the Christian Holy Week, before Easter Sunday.” Definition from Creole Religions of the Caribbean by Margarite Fernández Olmos and Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert.]

[Many thanks to Charo Oquet for bringing this item to our attention.]

For original article (in Spanish), see


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