Years ago, one of my cousins got married during our Christmas break in the States. Usually, we went to Puerto Rico every summer, but, that year, we were able to also go for Christmas. It was my first Puerto Rican Christmas, and I loved it. There are lots of memorable stories from that Christmas in Puerto Rico– I drove the male cousins down the mountain after the wedding because their dancing had turned to liquid. But it was my first time driving– I was just 15– and my abuelita gave me both an earful and eyeful when I walked into the house, keys in my hand. The boys, swaying, went unnoticed. But the greatest thrill of that Christmas was discovering La Parranda. These mobile parties were a thrill for me– just think spontaneous Progressive Dinner meets Caroling and you get a small sense of the revelry. Every Christmas since, I have recalled those Parrandas, the spontaneity and joy of them, the love and warmth of them, the magic and familiarity of them.
A few years after I discovered parrandas, I discovered Esmeralda Santiago and her writing. When I was Puerto Rican was a revelation and a relief for me. Ever since, I have scooped up her work, loving its texture and truth. This year, NPR featured La Parranda, a play written by Santiago and Daisy Martinez, on their Christmas Day edition of All Things Considered. Check it out.