April 28, 2006
Lewicito 'Cito' Velasquez, one of Trinidad's most renowned Wire-bender/Masmen, passed away after suffering a stroke on 8th April, 2006, at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Champs Fleurs, Trinidad.
Lewicito 'Cito' Velasquez
Cito, as he was commonly called, was born on 51 Frederick Street, Port of Spain, on 23 June, 1928. As a boy, growing up on Port of Spain's St. Vincent Street, Cito learned to sculpt at his family's doll factory. What he learned during the early period of his life, later served him well over the years in his profession.
His career started in the late 1940's when he started bending wire for the Mas presentations of two east Port of Spain steelbands, Fascinators and Bar Twenty.
Most of his adult life was spent at his Barataria home/Mas Camp; designing, building and bringing out his wire-bending creations.
Cito was a true pioneer and a powerful influence in his field of craftsmanship. Not only did he fascinate this country with his work, he also contributed tremendously in the development of the art form. He even acted as an adviser to other wire-benders and band leaders.
His talent was not only a national commodity, but an international one as well. He created Mas' designs in Canada, New York, St Maarten, and Barbados. Over the years, his travels took him to foreign countries where he offered his services to improve the standard of their Carnival.
Cito was aware that Carnival was always changing and he challenged those changes in his own way. He was responsible for most of the changes that took place in the Fancy Sailor Mas. His presentations ranged from the Fancy Sailor Mas' with elaborate headpieces, an area he dominated for many years, to the Large Kings and Queens of the Bands.
After years of experience and expertise in the art form, Cito started setting his own precedents in Mas. He accepted nothing less than the best in producing his presentations. He got his fame in the 50's and 60's when he produced some of his most spectacular Mas.
In 1959, he produced his first band, "Fruits and Flowers", with Geraldo Vieira Sr. It was one of his most successful Carnival presentations. It portrayed giant tropical fruits and flowers made from 12 to 16-gauge wire and papier mâché. The Mas was so skillfully decorated it looked uncannily real.
In 1962, Cito was commissioned to decorate the streets of Port of Spain in commemoration of Trinidad and Tobago's Independence. One of the main highlights of this occasion was the headpieces he made from his Mas presentation "Fruits and Flowers" as part of the decorations.
Through the 60's and early 70's, he produced award winning "Individual Costumes". He went on to cop four consecutive "Small Band of the Year" titles from 1973 to 1976 with "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea", "Fantasy of the Butterflies", "Cock-a-Doodle-Doo", and "Nature's Paradise".
In recognition of his contributions to Carnival, Lewicito 'Cito' Velasquez was awarded a Hummingbird Gold Medal by the government of Trinidad and Tobago in 1973.
Some of his other masterpieces were "Splendor of The East", "Signs of Good Taste", "Looking Into Retrospect' and "African Art".
Poor health took its toll on Cito in his later years, preventing him from undertaking the volume of work to which he was accustomed. However, he did what was manageable once his health permitted.
Many will remember Lewicito 'Cito' Velasquez, not only for his brilliant work, but also for his camaraderie and sense of humor. He has left behind many pleasant memories.
Lewicito 'Cito' Velasquez Mas Presentations
- 1959 - "Fruits and Flowers"
- 1963 - "Splendour of the East"
- 1969 - "Fun and Laughter"
- 1973 - "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea," 1st Place (Small Band of the Year)
- 1974 - "Fantasy of the Butterflies," 1st Place (Small Band of the Year)
- 1975 - "Cock-a-Doodle-Doo," 1st Place (Small Band of the Year)
- 1976 - "Nature's Paradise," 1st Place (Small Band of the Year)
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