Guavaberry is a drink that arrived from the British West Indies with immigrants that settled in the D.R. It has become part of our culinary heritage.
“Drinking Guavaberry / Watching the sun go down / Woman, that’s all I need! / In San Pedro de Macorís.
Guavaberry, Juan Luís Guerra
For many Dominicans, myself included, the famous 440 song was the best introduction to Cocolo culture. And of all the ingredients that make the flavorful stew that is the Dominican culture,
Ms. Margot Dunker was my guide to the
“Cocolos are Dominican descended from black immigrants from the British West Indies, mainly from the Westward and Leeward Islands.”
The origin of the term “Cocolo” itself is in dispute, however, it appears in literature going back to the mid-1800s used derogatorily to describe Haitian immigrants, but there is at least an example of the name also used to describe a Taino boy. “It seems to have been synonymous with dark-skinned person”, Margot tells me, “but it is nowadays simply descriptive of this group of British West Indies immigrants, and it’s lost its offensive connotations.”
Cocolos were active in establishing protestant churches in the country, including Anglican and Evangelical congregations. They also founded some of the first “mutual aid societies”, in which members paid a membership fee, and received financial assistance in case of sickness, death, and legal difficulties. They also established several lodges in the country, some of them exclusively for Cocolo immigrants, although they later opened their membership to anyone. Another well-known contribution from Cocolos is the “guloyas”, a dance troupe now a part of the traditional carnival parade.
And of course, food and drinks, the best-known one being Yaniqueque, followed by Domplines. Lesser known are Guavaberry–a drink, and jam, made with the eponymous fruit*– and calalú, a stew named after one of its ingredients, the leaves of yautía coco.
Thanks to Ms. Dunker for sharing her recipe and time with us. If you are ever around San Pedro and want to try Cocolo food, pay them a visit. I strongly suggest you make arrangements beforehand as these dishes are not always available.
Guavaberry Drink and Jam
- 2 cups guavaberries rinsed
- 3 sticks cinammon
- 12 cloves
- 6 allspice berries
- 1 cup sugar (granulated)
- 2 qtz water (2 liters)
Si vas a hacer la bebida
- 12.7 oz dark Dominican rum (375 ml)
First, let’s make the jam
- Place the guavaberries, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, sugar, and water into a pot.
- Heat and simmer over low heat until the water has reduced, the berries are very soft and has turned into a jam with some liquid left (about an hour). Cooking time may vary, so keep an eye on it to prevent it from burning.
- Remove the pot from the heat, and let it cool to room temperature. If you are just making the jam, remove the spices, and chill before serving as a dessert, or on bread if you’re feeling adventurous.
Si vas a hacer la bebida
- Mix the jam (with all the spices) and the rum, and let it rest in the refrigerator for a week. Strain and serve chilled.
To Learn More about Cocolo Culture
- Los Cocolos – Origins
- Los aportes de la comunidad guloya a la cultura de República Dominicana
- Los Cocolos de San Pedro de Macorís
* Guavaberry (the fruit) is also known as arrayán in the Dominican Republic.