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Bonaire’s Maskarada

Bonaire’s Maskarada is a 25+ year tradition.

On New Year’s Day, the Maskarada performs at various venues throughout the day.

Starting at the residence of the Lt. Governor, these masked participants, remaining silent and completely concealed to maintain their anonymity, engage in playful interactions with the spectators. They perform short performances by miming and dancing a storyline. Among the cherished acts is one depicting a bull and a bullfighter engaging in a spirited contest, while another participant attempts to lasso a horns. Alternatively, enjoy the spectacle of a fisherman in a boat, “hooking” a shark and reeling it in. Once landed in the boat, all the Maskarada join in to be sure the shark isn’t the one fish “that got away.”

The Maskarada puts on up to seven performances on New Year’s Day, making stops at numerous homes across Bonaire.

Following their initial performance, the group makes their way to the elderly home to entertain the residents. The atmosphere is always filled with smiles of joy as these individuals partake in this cherished tradition. Afterwards, they continue on to visit residences in the neighborhoods of North Salinja and Tera Kora. It’s a tradition that when the Maskarada pays a visit, the hosts express their gratitude by providing food and drinks to sustain their energy. This is crucial, considering they may perform as many as seven times throughout the day.

Special Maskarada music.

The group dances in rhythm to to the music of Grupo Maskarada, featuring traditional instruments  such as “squeeze-boxes,” “chapi,” (a small percussive instrument made from the metal part of a hoe and struck with a metal bar), guitar, and Quarta (a four-stringed instrument).  The musicians take the lead in guiding the group’s entrances and exits, as well as leading the parades down the streets of Bonaire’s neighborhoods.

The identity of the masked faces.

Throughout the day, the identities are kept secret. They maintain complete silence and take care not to reveal who they are. However, at the end of their final performance, the Maskarada are “unmasked,” allowing everyone to finally see the individuals who dedicated their day to entertaining them.

For those who miss the festivities on New Year’s Day, there is typically a second opportunity to partake in this unique Bonairean tradition. The Maskarada usually performs on the Sunday following New Year’s Day. If you find yourself on Bonaire during the New Year’s holidays, be sure to check out the schedule as it varies each year.

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