Paying Respect to Lewicito 'Cito' Velasquez
Tributes at Wake
April 09, 2006
JERRY: As a little fella, I actually grew up in this yard. I was like the little salt fish inbetween the older folks. I was always safe because they used to take care of me. My parents were happy that I was with this band on Carnival Day because they knew I would be taken care of by the older folks. It's different now but back then the older ones looked after the little ones. I gained a lot of experience here and I saw a lot of good artists pass through this yard. What made the band so good was the competition we had amongst ourselves. Cito did a lot of work. He even did work for other people while doing work in his band. A lot of people got popular because they had a good Mas and they were winning. He did structures and things like that. He even gave advice here and there. He was a good innovator.
Every year we tried to come with something different in the Fancy Sailor. We used to check out all the different materials. One year we used French Satin and then we came in with lamé. We did a lot of detailed work. We had smocking and things like that. On the headpieces we did a lot of beading. Back then a lot of people were making their own costumes but now is different. I am not knocking it because things are always changing. In those days more men than women played Mas mainly because of the big headpieces that had to be carried. That wouldn't happen today because the women wouldn't carry that type of headpiece. Back then Mas wasn't as commercial. We played more for fun than anything else. Saving up months before Carnival to make the Mas you were coming out with was a big deal because you want to beat somebody else in the band. Winning Band Of The Year was just by the way, but we wanted to be the best in our band. That helped the whole thing to grow from strength to strength.
Cito came from a family of class people. The family used to make dolls and things like that. His sister Linda was good at icing cakes and sculpturing with plaster parries. The family also made statues for churches. What was nice for me when I was a little fella, was when I wanted some advice about something. If I come running here, they would always stop and give me a little advice. Geraldo Vieira did the same thing. He would also stop and give advice. The older ones do that. I do not know how it is now because of the commercial part of the thing.
I am still into the Mas big times but I do most of my work outside. As a matter of fact I worked with Cito in America. I took him to Barbados once to do something for me because the Mas has spread. What we are seeing now is more clothes coming back into Mas. It's just one of the changes and we have to accept that. If it goes back to the skimpy thing Mas will always change. We have to change to suit the music. We cannot put the big heavy Mas on our heads to move with the kind of music they have now. They use less costume now because the music they play has so many beats per second you have to be moving at a certain speed. You have other dynamics to look at with the steelbands. The DJs are now drowning out the steelband music. We tried to amplify the steelband but it never really hit off. Steelband has its place side by side with the big truck. We are exporting Carnival now so it's different. It is easier to package and market the bath suit Mas than even the Traditional Mas. If you want to ship a Bat costume outside, you have to send all the information about the Bat and the Dragon together with it. If you are looking at it from a commercial basis, the bath suit Mas is it.
I once asked Cito what was his favorite time of the year. I thought he would have said Carnival but he told me it was Christmas time when his mother was alive. That was true because we used to be passing on Seventh Street to see what type of Christmas tree he had in the gallery. In those days we knew Christmas from what we saw on the postcards with the snow and the houses with the chimneys. Cito had a real Christmas tree decorated with ice-cream, cakes, and sweets. We were always coming with something different. When the other fellas in the band saw that, they wanted to come with something different too.
It's nice that we could meet here because this was the yard. When you come here Ash Wednesday, you felt sick and like you were missing something because we didn't have any work to do, it was a dead period. Those are some of my memories of Cito. He lived to be a big man but the little boy in him was always there. He used to play tricks on you even in his old days. If you pass by and ask him for directions he would send you in the wrong direction. I remember there was a time when I came by to see Cito. He was speaking on the phone for half an hour and I heard him asking the other party about their mother and everybody at home. When he was finished, he said to the person on the phone, "Sorry, but you have the wrong number". Sometimes people used to come around the yard doing nothing and Cito would just send you by Geraldo. He would say, "Carry this parcel by Geraldo for me", and the parcel had two big stones in it. Geraldo was in on the thing too, so he would wrap the stones in different paper and send it back up to Cito. We got rid of the idle person for about an hour and a half. It was real fun. Carnival Day was just the end of it. Building the Mas and all the fun we had before Carnival was what we really came here for.
TRINIVIEW: What are your views on Cito's contributions to Carnival?
JERRY: They had some changes in Carnival and Cito was one of the people who contributed to those changes. He was a legend in his own right. People used to be running over to see what Mas Cito was bringing out for the Carnival. It was just like when Peter Minshall first started and people used to be running to see his Mas. That was the only other time I actually saw people running to see Mas. In those days we used to jump from Barataria to town and in the night we jump back up to Barataria. All along the way by Fernandez going down, people used to line the streets to see what Cito was coming with. People talk about "Fruits and Flowers" but that was just one of the productions. There were other presentations like "Nature's Notebook' and "Splendor of the East" which were bigger bands. As far as I am concerned, they were better Mas with more detailed work. I didn't work with Cito in 1962 when we had our Independence. I was about eleven years old at the time and I had just started college. There would be some older ones around who actually worked with him when Dr. Williams gave him the contract to decorate Frederick Street. They decorated with flowers and fruits to commemorate our Independence. That was a great thing. If he was doing something like that today, he would have been a millionaire. In those days the money was small for that kind of work.
TRINIVIEW: Mr. Valentine, I know a lot of this history is not readily available to the younger people. What would you say that will really be valuable to a young child who didn't know about Mr. Velasquez?
JERRY: I would tell them they have to put their heart and soul and everything into whatever trade they go into. Cito put everything into his Mas. If you want to be a garbage man, be the best garbage man ever. We had one of the best postmen in Trinidad right here in Barataria. The papers man is still alive today. He would drop his papers by you whether it was raining or the sun was shining. In those days it was a kind of work attitude not only Cito had, but many other people as well. Cito was good and he always shared the knowledge he had. The young people should always try their best and learn from other people. They should try to be different and be innovative.
TRINIVIEW: Thank you.
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