Lent: gastronomy and regional variations

With regard to the culinary of the Lenten period, the use of grains in the selection of desserts that accompany the period is notorious: sweet beans, beans with sweet and corn with sweet, the latter also known as chacá and who is accused of Haitian origin.

The regionalization of these sweets is also notorious, since the corn or chaca, although it is tasted in the Cibao, is more of the south. The beans with sweet is usually also from some parts of the south, like the Cibao, notwithstanding the beans with sweet is national, perhaps it can be considered the icon of the Holy Week, not the only one.

As for savory or stewed dishes, we see that those from the sea dominate the taste or popular choice, clearly induced by a religious consideration that understands that meat should not be eaten on some specific days of Lent and Holy Week. Fish, in its various forms of preparation, cod, herring, sardines, shellfish, and meat substitute vegetables such as eggplant, occupy the popular cookbook to please, out of conviction or fear, religious doctrine.

Over time, the food has broken the taboo and is less accommodating to the call of the church. There is interest in beans with sweet. Holy Week as such does not have an exclusive dish, other than the sweet bean dessert as a symbolic reference.

Today, with the process of secularization that dominates western societies, what does not escape the Dominican, it dilutes Lent and its essential significance related to the period of recollection, nourishment of the spirit and sacred retreat; replaced by entertainment, leisure and pleasure, have also affected the sacred component of the season, as well as the culinary.

In the case of Dominican society, the postrujillista destape changed the models of social behavior and the restrictive frontiers that limited social action, individual freedom and the right to recreation and public space were broken. Over time, the social overflow impacted on the sacred world and, without ceasing to be a society with high religious fervor, its daily life and other habits, detract from its adherence to the expected sacred behavior.

On another level of our diverse cultural composition, we find the celebrations of the gagá, cult possibly linked to the fertility of the earth, of high African-American content and very close to the voodoo cult, it is a scenic representation of confrontation between good and evil, which it becomes visible in a structures or societies of belonging, whose commitment is 7 years. Its internal organization responds much to the mestizo hierarchy of queens, elders, captains, typical of African societies on one side and the Western military hierarchy on the other.

These groups of gagá usually leave on Holy Fridays and travel around nearby communities, showing their contagious music and rhythmic and sensual dance. The night before, on Holy Thursday, is the mystic consecration of the cult, the blessings of its members, the rituality of the departure of the queen, the Catholic prayers, the possessions, sacrifices, purification of their followers, blessing and spoils of their costumes , musical instruments and other paraphernalia of the group. The sacrifice of sacred animals, ceremonial food and songs and music to their deities crown the night, which is accompanied by many parishioners who participate all the morning, to then leave on Good Friday, ending on Resurrection Sunday, in their community of origin to return the protective spirit (in the local cemetery) and finish the battle that must always be won for good.

For the tradition of popular Catholicism and Dominican voodoo, the saints and gods of the voodoo pantheon are on vacation during that Week, there are no magical practices, there must be no invocations, no possessions, no consultations, no "works", or " services". The food that accompanies in this case to the gagá, is of ritual nature and closely linked to the tastes of the gods invoked, mostly belonging to the Division of petrós or gods bitter, by the nature of the confrontation that calls them together.

Today, food, Lent and Holy Week are marked by changes that question its essence and the traditional frameworks on which this old tradition of unfailingly European origin was cemented, which, as a result of the cultural amalgam that represents the Caribbean, and in he, the Dominican society, the survival of Lent is only possible, nuanced with other cosmogonies with which it shares territoriality, history and culture.

Carlos Andújar
Coordinator of Cultural Programs