Parang. This Trinidad Creole English word has its origin in the Spanish word parranda. Many Spanish words used by Trinidadian speakers of Spanish were shortened in our local English in a similar manner. One such example is duende, which was converted into dwen or douen.

The Douens, Artwork Credit: Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh

The duende is a magical creature belonging to a fantasy world, a being which defies the physical limitations of mere mortals. The Trinidad dwen or douen is depicted as a small rotund childlike human with feet pointed backwards to confuse human beings as to where it is exactly heading. It is more mischievous than evil. I heard about them from my Panyol friend Ma Juanita of Luango Village in Maracas Valley. I used to visit Juanita to chat with her in Spanish. Juanita was in her seventies when we first met and never lacked conversation.

One of Juanita’s neighbours was her grand-daughter, Annie. In fact, four generations lived in adjacent accommodation quite independently, yet dependent one on the other. Annie understood Spanish, but was reluctant to speak it. She preferred to talk to her grandma in English or French patois. However, she seemed to understand every word of the conversation between Ma Juanita and myself. On one occasion the subject was douens or duendes. Juanita said that duendes liked clean places. For this reason, young women should be careful when they went to the river to wash, since the douens fell in love with them and tried to seduce them. She said they often used offensive language when they could not have their way. They would hurl insults at the girls and have been heard to say:

San Jerónimo, San Jerónimo              St Jerome, St Jerome
Tráeme la cabuya                        Bring the rope
Pa amarrar a esa                        to tie up that 
Sinvergüenza puta                       good for nothing whore. 

Annie said that the douens took away little children when their parents were not around. They came into the house, turned everything topsy-turvy, put the sugar where the salt should be and vice versa. They left little babies in remote places, but they did no physical harm. Annie was afraid of them. She had had babies and was careful not to leave them unattended. I thought that douens were cute. I remembered the Alfred Codallo watercolours of these chubby, faceless, tropical sprites. They were only barely perverse.

You can now answer our first question: What is the origin of the word parang?

Follow the blog to learn about parang and our Trinidad cocoa panyols. Bamboozled by our culture? Join our mailing list to take a closer look…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.