Santiago and the surrounding cities are famous for their Carnival every year in the month of February.
It is an explosion of happiness and a real show of the Dominican soul and identity encompassing all facets of the Dominican people. The celebrations are enriched by many masks among which the devils are the most popular.
The Lechones in Santiago are the local conception of zoomorphic creatures that appear wherever pseudo Christian and/or pagan celebrations take place around Ash Wednesday. In Santiago , the tradition of making paper mache masks probably came with Spanish colonizers centuries ago. In Santiago, to be precise, after the War of Restoration in which Dominicans celebrated their recently regained independence, the carnival tradition dates back to the 1870's.
Legend has it that the lechones originated as guardians during the carnival of Santiago. They kept order by marching at the head of the parade, paving a path so that carnival characters could move through the crowd. They carried small staffs that they constantly waved back and forth. These were replaced by sisal rope whips, and later by rattles made of cow bladder. All lechones originally wore similar costumes but the traditional squaring off between lechones of different neighborhoods led to the need to distinguish by sector. The masks of the Pepineros (from the northern sector of Los Pepinos) became known for their plain horns while those of the Joyeros(from the southern sector La Joya) were distinguished by their ornamented horns with thorns.