Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Parrandas, Tramps, Parangs - Christmas music to island hearts

Once again it is time to explain parrandas for those who are new to this Puerto Rican tradition. You will either become one of the grumblers at being awakened at three in the morning by the music or one, like me, who delights in coming gently out of a sleep to music and laughter, the occasional sound of horses' hooves clattering on the road. My advice is... remember why you are here and embrace this wonderful tradition! If you are fortunate, you might be invited along!

Omar Rodríguez

First, let me explain that parrandas are the Puerto Rican name for what in the US Virgin Islands is called a tramp, and down island called a parang. No doubt there are other names I am not familiar with, but three is good enough to get the idea. How can the idea of going out in the middle of the night, dancing, eating, drinking and visiting your neighbors, friends and family not be a great thing? There are traditional foods served (think lechon!) along with traditional drinks (coquito!) and traditional songs sungs.

Oh, the crispy, crackling skin, the aroma!
Go by El Batey early mornings during holiday season
you may get to see the pig on the spit on the side of the building

Coquito - looks like eggnog...tastes like coquito!

One of my favorites is usually sung on the Christmas morning tramp, the Guavaberry song. Good morning, good morning, I come for me guavaberry... No one is looking for a handful of berries, but rather the guavaberry liqueur. Once when I was doing an article on St. Thomas about guavaberry liqueur, the woman who told me about it sent someone to her house to bring back the jerry bottle that was kept put away until Christmas. The 'starter' for this particular batch had been passed down in her family for over 60 years. And it was delicious! Ah guavaberry...

 The VI's are close in my heart as St. Croix was the first place I lived in the Caribbean. Arriving in November, it wasn't long before I was hearing traditional Christmas carols sung in calypso beat with steel pans as back up, pouring out of stores sound systems into the streets. I remember the first time (doesn't everybody?) just coming to a halt and standing there listening and laughing...yes, I was in the islands and it was absolutely different here...

And so it is with Culebra. While a Spanish culture, Culebra is foremost a Caribbean culture and the samenesses with other islands stand out far more than the differences. As the years go by and I learn more deeply the roots of the Culebrense I've chosen to spend this part of my life with, Christmas becomes more and more a child like event than ever before - and when I wake up to my first parranda of the year, I'll run outside to catch a view of the singers and players before coming back in to go back to sleep as the music fades away, up the road. Until tomorrow.


  1. ...somebody's getting in the spir-r-r-it...;*

  2. i'm sharing this great informative post with Phil to get his mouth watering for his first Culebra visit...thanks!!

  3. So he knows, he won't be woken up by music at 3 a.m. but there is still a lot to enjoy...

  4. 3am wakeups *are* available from your friendly neighborhood rooster. Just sayin'...

  5. Not out thataway...I think there's a law against it...just sayin'

  6. we'll be at the Waterhouse for a week when the rest of the family visits over the holidays...he'll get the full treatment. But he'll snore through it. I, on the otherhand will be enjoying the sound of the waves on the pilings all least i can come over to your house and play. :)

  7. Well, tonight was the lighting downtown. I was unexpectedly working at Susie's, no camera. Not much work really, so Karen and I went to town where it was ALL happening and me with no camera. So good so good. All I can say, Phil, is...get your head ready to enjoy something you have no idea of expecting. Because Culebra joy is not like any other...