Curtis 'Dragon' Blackman & Joseph Roseman
Paying Respect to Lewicito 'Cito' Velasquez
Tributes at Wake
April 11, 2006
Curtis 'Dragon' Blackman
I remember as a little fella knocking about, I used to see Cito's Mas in the gallery. Back then my parents didn't want me to go anywhere in the night. When they were asleep, I used to sneak out through the window and come down here by Cito. I used to always watch what he was doing. He noticed I really liked Mas. One day he said to me, "I want you to do something for me." I asked him what he wanted and he said, "I have some Mas outside and I want them go get covering. But you have to go in hot starch and do papier mâché." I said, "But Cito, I cannot do that." He said, "It easy. All you have to do is put brown paper to soak, and when yuh finish making the starch bring it here." I said, "But Cito, that hard yuh know." He said, "No, it's not hard. It just needs somebody like you who likes Mas to do this thing." I told him ok and went ahead. I pushed my hand in the starch and it burned me. I said, "But Cito, this thing burning my hand." He said, "The hotter it is, the better for you to use it." The thing good burned me. I continued doing it and he came back and said, "Yes, yuh going good." All this time the thing burning me. I continued because I had just come out and I wanted to learn something. The people who were there were always working and I didn't want to be standing there idle.
After I hustled it down, Cito came out and he watched it. He said, "Yuh going good yuh know, but yuh see down here, ah find yuh rough it up too much." He took off what I did. I was shocked and vexed. I said to him, "Cito, all that work I have to go through again?" Cito said, "But yuh learning something." I did it over and fixed it up nice. The next morning it was still wet and I was concerned. Cito said to me, "Take your time, you will see what I am talking about." When the sun came out, it got hard and looked like it was going to burst. He said to me, "Yuh see…that is how I want my things. It will look real nice when I put my design on it." I said to Cito, "I tried, but yuh see this hot starch thing?" He said, "Doh dig no horrors. We will see when you come tomorrow." When I came back the next day, Cito had a lot of costumes made out of wire waiting for me. I said, "But Cito, I cannot do all of that." He said, "You have to do it. I wouldn't tell you what Mas you are playing, but you have to finish it." Would you believe I finished it? He really liked me. He gave me a nice fish and I came out and placed Mas for the first time in my life and I really enjoyed it. Cito was nice.
My earliest memories of Cito Velasquez go way back to when we were boys. He attended the Nelson Street Boys R.C. School and I attended the Sacred Heart Boys R.C. School. We were considered best friends in the early years. Whenever you see Cito, you would see me too. We remained very close from school days to now. We had our little misunderstandings, but we never allowed them to get between us. After I started to move away from the steelband thing in Barataria, we went our separate ways for a while. He continued with his Mas making and I went on to pan tuning. I am a Pan Tuner by profession. One of the biggest bands we had in Barataria formed in the back of my yard. The band was called 'Black Swan'. Cito was very much involved in steelband as well.
I was very disappointed and sad when I heard he died Saturday. I used to ask him over and over what he was doing about his health, and how he was going to handle the situation. He didn't give me details, but he told me he had a lot of pain all over his body. I was very much annoyed because I felt he should have handled his health more wisely. I found he was giving up with life too easily. It was from that angle I started to encourage him to try and do something more about the situation and not succumb to the illness. Perhaps it was too difficult for him to move around.
Cito was a masterpiece in terms of his skills. In the earlier years when we were around Casablanca, he used to play "Dragon" Mas. He played all kinds of Mas. His home here was a complete Mas yard. Different caliber of band leaders used to come here to get things made. The whole family was involved in Carnival. I would be disappointed if a crowd of Mas enthusiasts didn't come here and also attend his funeral. Cito was popular as a Masman. We produced from this yard some of the best Fancy Sailors I have ever seen in this country. We have been the most talked about Mas Band ever, in the history of Carnival in this country.
We used to play Mas with Fascinators, but in 1958, there was a little misunderstanding and we decided to come out with our own band the following year. I would never forget December of 1958. While we were here preparing for the Carnival, the question was asked, "What sort of Mas should we play next year?" Different ideas came up and so on and then I said, "Why not try flowers?" They asked, "How do you visualize flowers on a head piece. How will it look?" Again they asked, "What do we call such a band?" I cant' remember what I said, but I know it was something pertaining to the Botanic Gardens. Cito's sister Linda was there at the time and she used to call me Ben. She said, "No Ben, the Botanic Gardens usually carry trees not flowers." She told me the idea was a very good one. Linda said, and I am quoting her, "I would add fruits to it, and we will call the band, "Fruits and Flowers".
I was very much disappointed with myself the year "Fruits and Flowers" came out. That year the band followed my directions through Port of Spain because I was leading them. I led them up from the back of Marine Square, which is now called Independence Square. We went around the Downtown Carnival in front of the Salvotori Building, straight up Henry Street, turned into Park Street and then headed up Charlotte Street where we ran into the clash. That was a terrible day. I would never forgive myself for giving those directions. We still placed third in 'Band of the Year' with what we had left of the band. It was the most spectacular band ever seen in Port of Spain. People still talk about it.
Cito was a very good friend to me. I will miss him a lot despite the differences we had on the political side of things. We had a little misunderstanding with the politics when we took the decision to boycott the Panorama in 1979. Dr. Williams didn't want to listen to the Panmen when we called for an increase and so on. That was the only thing we had. I will always remember him as one of my best friends. I know we cannot live forever, but death will always come as a shock, regardless of how long you may live. Whether the person is a friend or family member, you will always feel it. Cito was a good friend to many people and he was also an exceptionally good Masman.
Homepage | Special Events | Carnival Features | Photo Gallery