Last weekend I went to the Parranda en El Barrio and had a great time. For those that missed this year's Traditional Puerto Rican Christmas celebration in East Harlem, mark your calendars for next year. Once again the Parranda met and exceeded my expectations. The place was beautiful, the food was plentiful (and good!!) and the songs timeless! The band Cholo Rivera y Salsa typica (which sometimes goes by the name Charanga Blues) was exceptional.
We were greeted with coquito and bowls of candy from Puerto Rico. The host, Dr. Anna Villafane, made everyone feel at home. This year guests were also given beautiful maracas, which I will cherish forever!
Because of the Parranda's growing popularity, organizers might have to move the event next year to accommodate the increasing crowds. It will be great to keep the Parranda in El Barrio though.
Despite the Parranda's growth, the key ingredient that must remain the same is the welcoming and giving environment that Villafane offers. As my home body Aunt Lucy who shocked us by joining us to the Parranda said, “I’m coming next year!”
It was a difficult decision for my family to go to this year's Parranda due to my brother's death. But I’m glad we went because we need to celebrate life and the things that bring us joy.
It was great to see good friends from Jersey City. Sonia, it was especially wonderful to see you. Thanks for the beer girl. I really needed it!
Last year, I met Iris Barreto at the Parranda and am honored to now have her as a friend. She sat at my family's table this year.
My friends, I hope to see more of you at this wonderful traditional event next year. You too might make a great friend or get the chance to reconnect with old friends.
Merry Christmas! -- Rosa Valentin
Rosa Valentin contributed this article to Puerto Rico Sun.
Editor's note: Organizers say that proceeds from this year's Parranda will go to Escuela Dr. Jose Ramos Lebron Sector de la Playa de Fajardo, Puerto Rico. See related November 19 entry in this blog.
(Photos by Clarence Elie-Rivera)