John Chapman & Cleophus Williams
Paying Respect to Lewicito 'Cito' Velasquez
Tributes at Wake
April 09, 2006
I am a Tobagonian by birth. I was sent to Trinidad when I was three years old and I grew up with an uncle who was a police officer. One J'Ouvert morning I ran away from home to play a Mas called "A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts". My uncle disowned me for that because he was a Christian. I climbed up a tree and cut young the coconuts so that I could play that Mas. When I came into Port of Spain, it was through football when I saw my beautiful wife. We got married in 1963. At the time when I saw my wife is when I saw Cito.
My first Mas was with Synco, after Synco it was with Fascinators. Cito and I played Mas with Fascinators in 1958. From Fascinators I stayed with Cito as a King Sailor.
Back then we used a lot of swansdown on our costumes. I remember him telling me when rain falls the swansdown would get wet so he decided to use glue. Then we came up here to Barataria and they brought out "Fruits and Flowers" in 1959. From there we went on to "Nature's Notebook, "Splendor of the East" and so on. We went down a long way from "Fruits and Flowers". I was a King Sailor, the Fancy Sailor with a big headpiece. We used to have a wonderful time. I was also one of the famous wire-benders but Cito was a better wire-bender than I was. When I bend a wire my costumes never broke down. It was tight and real good.
Cito called me about three weeks ago and said, "Chapman why yuh not coming to look for me?" He brought a bottle of rum and I came over and cooked for him. I cooked corned beef, potato and rice. Another wire-bender called James came over and we sat here talking until late. Cito was looking so handsome and his face was filled out. I said to him, "But you good to go". I never thought my friend would have died. I heard the news about his passing about 4 o'clock yesterday. I still cannot catch myself as yet.
I came into the Mas world with Cito very late because I was a freelancer playing with various bands. I was still living in Barataria but I never used to play with bands up here. I played with bands in town like Invaders and so on. Eventually I decided to stop playing with other bands in the year when we played "Splendor With the Fish". That's when I really decided to stay. I came in the late half because I used to just pass in, check them out and then leave. Then we came with "Flowers and Fauna With the Bees". I played with them when those Mas presentations came out. To my knowledge, when I look at it, they were the best I have seen.
We used to go to a lot of Band Launching when they opened Carnival. Back then all the bands used to launch down on Wrightson Road. You were allowed to bring a certain amount of members. They used to have a competition for the best picture and they would vie for prizes right there and then. The bands used to get a case of rum and so on. We used to have a really good time. At one time in the earlier stages when Jason Griffith was doing a Band Launching down at Seaman and Waterfront, Cito told Jason to continue the work he was doing and he (Cito) would come in now and then. Cito really used to come in now and again with a Mas.
He brought "Fruits and Flowers" in 1959. That was one of his major Mas presentations. When that Mas broke up on Charlotte Street, I was there but I didn't play that day. After the band was destroyed, Cito stayed away for about twelve years before he came back into Mas. When I knew Cito Velasquez, he was making Mas for 'Fascinators' and all those guys. I was living in Port of Spain at the time. I remember when he brought out a large Mas called "Signs of the Zodiac" with the scorpion and so on. The morning that Mas came out the police locked up Rock, the guy who was supposed to play the 'Scorpion'. The 'Scorpion' was just lying in the road with nobody to play it. I felt things like that should not have happened. They should have given the man a chance.
From then on Cito started aspiring and he opened his own band. The fellas who know his history real good were always there with him. They were playing from since in the Fascinators days before they came up here in Barataria with Cito. You have fellas like Geraldo Vieira who shared much with Cito too. I had a wonderful experience with Cito and the boys, including the people that are here tonight. We had a wonderful time and everything was good up till the time his last days. Up to Carnival 2006 he made little Mas and did some stage decorations. His hand was giving him some problems so he couldn't do as much as he would have really liked to do. He is gone now and we have to extend our condolences.
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