On Friday evening, November 10, 2017, St Michael RC Church in Maracas Valley Trinidad held their annual Parang Barbecue from 6:30pm – 2am. More than 7 bands provided music during the evening and more than 2000 people attended the outdoor event.
Parang is a popular folk music originating from Venezuela it was brought to Trinidad and Tobago by Venezuelan migrants who were primarily of Amerindian, Spanish, and African heritage which is reflected in the style of music.
In Trinidad, traditional parang music is largely performed around Christmas time, when singers and instrumentalists (known as the parranderos) travel from house to house in the community, often joined by friends and neighbors and family using whatever instruments are at hand. It consists of mostly Spanish Christmas songs.
While traditional house-to-house caroling tradition is still done, modern parang music has also developed a season of staged performances called parang fiestas, held from October through to January each year, culminating in a national parang competition. Today, parang is especially vibrant in Trinidad and Tobago communities such as Paramin, Lopinot, Maracas Valley and Arima.
The purpose of the Parang Barbecue at St Michael’s was to raise funds for the Elijah’s Bread program. Elijah’s Bread was started in December 2002, by the Carmelite Friars, as a social outreach to those in need in Maracas, St Joseph.
A month earlier, after a reconciliation service in St Michael’s Church, there was a great quantity of food remaining. and monthly collections. This food was given to a member of the community, who, while graciously accepting it, noted that it was the first time that she and her family had eaten for days. Thus, began the process of establishing what became Elijah’s Bread.
Gerard Tang Choon, O. Carm, then a Carmelite brother, together with volunteers from the parish of St. Michael’s began to distribute food hampers to families in need. At inception, six families were assisted, but the number soon rose to one hundred families throughout Trinidad, in Maracas Valley/St. Joseph; Blanchisseuse and Manzanilla (the last two being formerly served by the Carmelites) who receive food assistance regularly.
Elijah’s Bread is a registered non-governmental organization (NGO), and in addition to its food distribution program, it also assists the St. Michael’s Maracas R.C. School. It has partnered to facilitate an after-school tutoring program and launched a legal aid clinic in September 2012. Since 2007, the group has also hosted an annual Children’s Christmas Party. Funding for these far-reaching projects come from generous donations, fundraisers.
The wonderful work of the Elijah’s Bread program is known throughout Trinidad. For this reason, each of the bands that played agreed to do so for free. Besides the Christmas music all sorts of food was served including barbecue chicken, wild meats, corn soup, empanadas and other local delicacies.
While Christmas music beginning in October may not be a custom in many countries, one can not help escape it in Trinidad since it dominates the radio stations and gatherings well into January!