Cocoa panyols

The cocoa panyols (or cocoa payols) are a Hispanic (Latino) ethnic group in Trinidad & Tobago. The name comes from the patois word for Spanish, espagnol, or even Spanish word Español and reflects the historical association between the group and the cultivation of cacao in Trinidad (Cocoa Español).

Cocoa Drying House (model), Trinidad
Cocoa Panyols (Chart),Trinidad
Donkey with panniers (model),Trinidad

This community in Trinidad originated in the late sixteenth century (see History of Trinidad and Tobago). After the island fell under British control in 1797, Spanish-speaking Venezuelans continued to settle in Trinidad, usually in connection with the civil wars and revolutions which followed the Bolivarian revolution.

The rise of cocoa cultivation in Trinidad was largely achieved through the importation of Venezuelan peasant farmers. These farmers were employed to clear forest and establish cocoa seedlings. After five or seven years they were paid for each mature cocoa tree on the plot of land. They then moved on to a new plot of land. They are also credited with establishing parang in Trinidad.

Cocoa panyols are mixture of Amerindian, European and African ancestry.

Cocoa panyols were most prevalent in the cacao-growing areas of the Northern Range (Caura, Lopinot, Arima, Santa Cruz and Maraval) and the Central Range (especially the Montserrat and Tortuga districts). Relocation of the village of Caura for the planned Caura Dam (which was never constructed) led to a major disruption of Cocoa Panyol society. Many families re-located to the Lopinot Valley, but others moved into urban areas and were absorbed into the mainstream of Trinidadian life. In modern multi-ethnic Trinidadian society the Cocoa Panyols are sometimes seen as a vanishing minority. Many cocoa panyols merged into the French Creole, Mixed (Mulatto), Afro-Trinidadian and Indo-Trinidadian communities through intermarriage. In the Paramin region of Maraval, in the Northern Range, some Cocoa Panyols became integrated into the French Patois-speaking communities, giving rise to the Parang tradition in Paramin and the blend of Venezuelan and French Creole cultures.

The term Spanish is sometimes (wrongly) used synonymously with cocoa panyol, but may also be used for Venezuelans or other Hispanic national groups. This term is used as a reference to the language and not the actual race/ethnicity of the cocoa panyols.

Notable cocoa panyols


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