Tribute to Masman 'Cito' Velasquez

Lennox 'Datto' Samuel
Paying Respect to Lewicito 'Cito' Velasquez

Masman 'Cito' Velasquez passes away
April 08, 2006

Lewicito 'Cito' Velasquez
Lewicito 'Cito' Velasquez

Tributes at Wake Reporters
April 09, 2006

Lennox 'Datto' Samuel
Lennox 'Datto' Samuel

Fascinators was one of the steelbands we played Mas with in the past. I remember there was a time when they invited us to one of their celebrations and when we got there, Noble and the guys didn't check to see if we were there or anything like that. Back then some of our guys were Cito, Geraldo Vieira, John Sealey, Zambo and me. I remember Cito said, "Even if it is two Mas next year, I will bring my own band, even if I have to play alone". We talked to Geraldo and the late Jerry who was a "Fire Man" Fancy Sailor. We decided to bring out the band and Cito started to make the fruits and so on. About five weeks before Carnival Noble came up here in the Mas Camp. Shortly after he got there he said, "Cito, that Mas eh good". Cito asked him why and he said, "Because everybody knows what a fruit is. How you could bright that kind of Mas? What are you trying to do?" Cito didn't say anything, he just listened to him. After Nobel left, Cito said, "Fellas, if all yuh don't want to go with me, I will go alone if I have to, but this band has to move with me. I am not going in anybody band to play Mas again".

After we decided to hold on, we started making the Mas. I was going to play the Tamarind Mas, but they started to tease me and say things like, "Look the sour man coming". I came upstairs and I said to Cito's sister, "Linda, I think ah changing meh Mas". She said, "Datto, doh change yuh Mas, it will be a good Mas. You could get some China Lacquer and Plaster Paris and whiten your Mas". About two weeks before Carnival, I decided to whiten my Mas because I had already done the preparations with the paper. While I was whitening it in the yard, Jean Miles and Harold Saldenah were moving around the camp and looking at the hibiscus and so on. Jean held on to Saldenah and said, "Sally, look a guy painting a tamarind. That looks like a real tamarind on the ground". She touched it and said, "But this thing looks like a real tamarind." After Sally was finished looking at it, they did their little lime-out thing with Cito. We continued bringing the Mas and everybody was happy working.

That Carnival Tuesday when we were out on the road moving with Rhapsody Steelband, Geraldo Vieira was coming down with his section from over on Second Street. We didn't have time to cross the train line so he met us on Third Street corner. The train stopped on Sixth Avenue. When we reached on the train line, people started jumping off the train to come and join the band. It looked so crazy; one would have thought it was a fight. People were shouting, "Oh God, look at the watermelon". The people didn't want to continue traveling in the train because they wanted to move with the band. The way the people were jumping of the train one would have thought the train broke down. We met Vieira and we went straight down Sixth Avenue. Vieira played the vase with the flowers. When we reached in Port of Spain, we turned right on George Street. While we were going up on the corner of George Street and South Quay on Independence Square, we met Noble (the same guy who condemned our Mas). That year he played '"The Circus". When Noble's wife saw our Mas coming, she ran to him and was shouting, "Noble come and see Cito's Mas". Noble cuffed his wife and she fell. We paraded for the Downtown Carnival and then headed straight up Henry Street.

When we reached at the corner of Oxford Street, we turned right. When we were coming out on Charlotte Street corner, San Juan All Stars was coming up the road. Lord Blakie was in front waving the flag with Buster and them. When we realized they were in front, but San Juan All Stars was way down the road, we waited for them to come up. The band passed us on Oxford Street. While we were forming up to go behind them, they clashed with Desperados right in front of the hospital gate and fight broke out. That happened in about three seconds. It was the first time I ever saw bottle hit bottle in the air. That year San Juan All Stars played a War Mas, "Battle Cry". The people in the band started to run because it was something unexpected. All the people who were wearing army clothes from the band had to run for their lives. Desperados was looking for them all over the place. Some people ran in the hospital to hide. The police came and controlled the situation. After everything settled down, I asked Cito where we were going. Cito said, "We going in the Savannah, even if it is with two headpieces. Shortly after things settled down, the stampede started again and people were running all over the place. That's how our Mas got destroyed. We fixed what we could have fixed and we went up to the Savannah. When we got there, they told Cito he registered the Mas wrong. If he had registered the band as Authentic, we would have won Band of the Year, but he registered the band under Fancy Sailor. We couldn't win Band of the Year, but we won all the prizes in the Fancy Sailor Mas. That year 1959, George Bailey won Band of the Year with "Relics of Egypt".

We went on after that and we brought out Mas like "Signs of Good Taste" and "Yuletide Home and Abroad". Our headquarters was right here in Barataria. We used to come on Sunday mornings to hang out. One Sunday morning Cito said to us, "Ah bringing out 'Dog' next year. He said he watched two dogs fighting in the corner for almost an hour. He said to me, "Datto, if you see how those dogs fight. I had to throw water on them to stop". That's when we decided to bring out "Dogs in Their Splendor". We won Downtown 'Band of the Year'. Ash Wednesday, during the day when we were in the yard, three people from the media came in and asked for Cito Velasquez. One of the guys said, "I am Cito Velasquez". Cito was upstairs at the time. The reporter said, "We eh making joke, we came here to do a report and we want to find out something". We were drinking rum and talking about all what had happened Carnival Tuesday and so on. Cito came downstairs and he told the reporters he was Cito Velasquez. That's when they told us they were there to get some information because we had won Downtown 'Band of the Year' with "Dogs in Their Splendor". We were really happy about our victory. Everybody started jumping up and celebrating. They eventually spoke with Cito and he gave them the story about how he brought out the Mas.

Cito and I go way back. I remember there was a guy named Tall John who was Cito's real partner, but he lives in England now. Zambo Thomas was also one of the guys. We had a real nice side with the guy and them. We had wire-benders like Stonewall, John Sellier, Jerry and Dalgo, who played with us from since in the Fascinators day. It was a whole team of Masmen. Later on we joined up with a side from down Jogie Road. Those guys were Glewyn, Noble and Ellton Cuss. They joined us from "Fruits and Flowers". We also had Leroy who was from Chaguanas, but he lives in Couva now. All of us were workmen in the band. We were like a family band. Pinheiro joined the band when we made 'Nature's Notebook". He played the Jack Spania. We never used to think about making money. It was more about making Mas to come out on the road and enjoying ourselves. By Ash Wednesday we didn't have a cent in our pockets. We never made money when we made our Mas.

When we brought out "Yuletide Home and Abroad" Mas, I made the Snow House. Something really funny happened with that Mas. On Carnival Tuesday morning while we were getting the band organized, we took the Snow House and put it outside in the yard. We put a piece of rope in a pan with a little fire and placed it below the Snow House so we could get smoke coming out the chimney. A guy named Hamil who was a mechanic, sat down and said, "That smoke isn't coming out good enough, it's coming out too light". Hamil left and went down Seventh Street where he lived and picked up a gas rope and came back with it. He put the gas rope in the pan and lit it. Everybody said it was smoking nice and things were going good. I started hearing a strange noise in the yard and some of the guys bawling, "Datto yuh Mas burning outside, big fire". A Fire Officer was in the yard at the time because we used to have a lot of people coming to see the Mas before we go on the road with it. He ran and brought the fire extinguisher and put out the fire. I started to cry and everybody was crying. Carnival Tuesday morning I was still crying and saying, "Boy, ah work so hard and meh Mas' burn". Cito said, "Doh dig nothing. Take something else in the band and forget thatů leave it there". When deceased Jerry came up in the yard he said, "This has to go in Town, nothing staying back. Just mark 'Bad Wiring' on the Mas". We put up the sign as Jerry suggested and took it with us in Town. I placed third in my category.

Long ago Lent was a serious thing. When we played "Yuletide Home and Abroad", Chubby played the Santa Claus. Everybody was tired Carnival Tuesday night when we were coming back up so they decided to sleep in the Mas Camp. When it was about two o'clock in the morning, I woke up Chubby and said to him, "Chubby, look yuh still have on your Mas clothes and it's Lent". Chubby said, "Oh gosh, why all yuh didn't wake me up?" He jumped up and started running out the yard with his Santa costume still on. He ran straight to Jogie Road where he lived so he could change his clothes. We had real nice fun.

One time when we were making Mas in the yard, Cito said, "I don't want any liming in the yard this morning. It's about twenty days before Carnival and everybody has to work". Cito took a coal pot that was used as a regular seat in the Mas Camp and hot it up. He covered it with a piece of cardboard and just left it there. That coal pot was what we used to call the 'hot seat' in the Mas Camp. The first limer who came in the yard that morning was a fella called Clyde. He went straight to the hot coal pot and sat on it. He jumped up when his butt got burned. He never came back in the yard after that.

Sometimes I used to cook in the night when we were making Mas in the Camp. One night we didn't have any meat to eat. Lawrence told us his neighbour fowl sleeps on his mother's fence so we will go for that fowl. About 1 o'clock in the morning we left to go and get the fowl. Lawrence went into his mother's yard, took the fowl and we left with it. Would you believe Lawrence took his mother's male fowl instead of taking his neighbour's fowl? We went ahead and we killed the fowl and ate it. His mother's fowl used to wake her up every morning at 4 o'clock but she didn't hear it crowing for about two days. Lawrence's mother Daisy came here and called out to Cito. She said, "Cito, ah hope all yuh eh eat meh fowl? She didn't wake me up for two mornings, so ah want to know if all yuh come by me and take her?" Cito said, "Nah Daisy, I am not in that kind of thing". After she left we laughed. We really had nice fun.

One Carnival the whole side was here working in the camp. Some school children passed and were making fun of the Mas'. Cito said to them, "All yuh go home". The children still continued to tease and make funny faces. Cito pelt the pliers he had in his waist. A guy called Shadow who was here at the time kept looking to see where the pliers was going to fall. It landed on Shadow's head. While we were busy looking to see where it landed, Shadow was spinning like a top with the pliers stuck in his head. We pulled it out and took him to the hospital.

Cito was hasty at times, but he was also a very nice guy. One Carnival Sunday night we wanted to go into town to dance, but the Mas wasn't finished and Cito told us everybody had to stay in the yard to work. He was a very good guy and I don't think we could find another Cito. It will take a very long time before that happens. He and his family were loving people. The whole family was creative. When you are around them you will learn something. May God bless him and may he rest in peace.

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