28 June 2011

Parang in Lopinot, Trinidad: La Cruz de Mayo

The first parang band I had ever interacted with in person was Cristo Adonis' "Los Niños del Mundo" on Calvary Hill in Arima, Trinidad. Cristo Adonis is the shaman of the Santa Rosa Carib Community, and all of the members of the band were also members of the Carib Community. Then I found out that yet another band was also associated with the Carib Community, that being "Los Niños de Santa Rosa", managed by Jacqueline Khan, then Secretary of the Santa Rosa Carib Community. Moreover, for celebrations of the Caribs' annual Santa Rosa Festival, prominent and popular parang bands were invited to play at night in the Carib Centre. From this I proceeded to learn more about parang and how it fits in with the notion of Carib resurgence, specifically in connection with the Carib conceptualization of "maintained traditions." Clearly the history of parang exceeds the boundaries of indigeneity--the songs are sung in Spanish, and many of the songs are based on Catholic themes. However, the music has formed an integral part of the Amerindian mission experience in Trinidad, fortified by the arrival of mixed Spanish-Amerindian (mestizo) immigrants from Venezuela, many thousands of whom relocated to Trinidad between 1870 and 1920, and often intermarried with their kindred population of Spanish-Caribs in Trinidad.

One particular ceremony at which parang is performed is the Cruz de Mayo (May Cross), a ritual whose performance strongly mirrors the contemporary Santa Rosa Festival and was likely the source of its patterning. The Cruz de Mayo celebrates the month of Mary, and is also when the maypole is performed, which has even more significance for the Caribs as it was amalgamated into their traditions of weaving the sebucán, their cassava strainer (the dance around the maypole, weaving the ribbons together, is seen as mimicking the weaving of the sebucán).

Perhaps one of the most prominent historical figures in parang alive today is Clarita Rivas, a good friend of our family. She recently called to let me know that a performance of hers, for the Cruz de Mayo celebrations in Lopinot, had been filmed and uploaded to YouTube. She is also close to members of the Carib Community, and knows of my interest in parang. In that vein, I present the beautifully recorded videos below, produced by a friend of Clarita's friend, Maria Nuñes. Clarita is accompanied by the ever dynamic and engaging singer, Paul Hernandez.

Finally, I also found two videos (there are likely more) of Cristo Adonis performing parang, including at a previous Cruz de Mayo in Lopinot:

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