To the uninitiated, the road to Paramin resembles a slim river of asphalt racing down an impossibly steep valley. Heading left off the main Maraval crossroads (or from the Morne Coco Road that winds its way from Diego Martin), it climbs precipitously to the village’s main junction, a three-way meeting of narrow roads, where the shops, parlours, church and school all converge.
On weekdays, it is still and quiet save for the buzz of schoolchildren; most of Paramin’s four thousand residents are at work, many in the fields they have etched into the high hillsides of the Maraval Valley.
This is a community where everyone knows who you are: there are only five major families. The elders speak warily of their oral history. A dark tale of lusty slave masters and beautiful black maidens fleeing to an agricultural safe haven. Forget it, they whisper. It can’t be verified. There are no records… Forget it.
Much of Paramin is like this: a people who live virtually cut off from the rest of the world. They speak Patois (or Kwéyòl), a variety of the (Caribbean) French Creole language, quite unlike the Spanish spoken among elders in other parts of Trinidad. The farmers work their land intimately, with a tenderness that would not be out-of-place in a pediatric nurse. Their crops of cabbage, tomato, thyme and sweet peppers provide the basis of a famous brand of seasonings and pepper sauce, prepared by hand and bottled here with the same sense of detail and correctness.
For most of the year, visitors will find almost nothing to do in Paramin, save study their agricultural techniques. On three days, however, Paramin is comes to life. The second Sunday in November is the Harvest, which celebrates the end of the agricultural cycle with games, music, and traditional feasting on ‘wildmeat’ such as agouti, tattoo, lappe, deer and wild hog.
Just before Christmas, Paramin hosts its famous parang festival at ‘The Basement’, a private residence and the unofficial community centre. Parang songs, the rambunctious hispanic melodies that pervade Trinidad’s Christmas celebrations, acquire a unique French flavour at the Paramin festival.
On Carnival Monday, Paramin becomes the realm of the blue devils — traditional masqueraders covered in blue grease and powder who take to the streets, striking terror into the hearts of the innocent, or of those with clean clothes. Heaven help you if you don’t have a dollar to offer these bands of roving ragamuffins!