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Sunday 19 August 2018
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Adios Señor Gomez

WE PAY TRIBUTE to Narcenio “Señor” Gomez who died earlier this month at the age of 85. He was one of the last of a generation of pioneering Fancy Sailors and wire-benders. The sadness evident in the Dame Lorraine on the cover of yesterday’s edition seemed to symbolise mourning for the end of an era in our Carnival history.

Gomez was born on Charlotte Street, Port-of-Spain, on June 11, 1931, in the area known as Mongoose Yard. His parents, who were influential in his life, were Venezuelan. At this time, the steel band movement and masquerading at Carnival were not yet widely accepted. In his youth, Gomez met Buree Thomas, who introduced him to sailor mas.

“My parents were Venezuelans and they were never really much into mas’ because they were Catholics,” Gomez once recalled.

“To run away sometimes I had to put on my sister’s dress.

Sometimes when my father came home, he would know we were out and he would wait and then say what he had to say.” Thomas would give the young Gomez more responsibility until one day, Gomez made a helicopter out of wire on his own steam.

Thomas was impressed.

“I made it so good he couldn’t believe it,” Gomez said. “From there it was no turning back, and then one day Harold Saldenah came.” The mas man was impressed. The rest was history.

Gomez become synonymous with wire-bending skill. His contribution has been such that he has been likened to the late great wire-bender Cito Velasquez and sailor mas legend Jason Griffith, who is still today an active presence in the Belmont community.

Gomez played sailor mas with BOSS of Belmont. He also produced bands internationally, spending some time at New York where be brought out the band Undersea Kingdom as well as others with Errol Payne.

Some of this work has been documented.

Upon his return to Trinidad, Gomez worked with Stephen Lee Heung, then returned to Saldenah.

Throughout his career, Gomez never stopped engaging with the community. For example, he gave classes in mas making at the Belmont Community Centre and participated in one of the recent mentoring with the masters programmes of the Culture Ministry.

“I am a community man,” Gomez once said. “The Lord sends everybody to do something.” In his own way, Gomez has played a part in telling the story of our nation’s history through the medium of the Fancy Sailor.

It is a medium that underlines our ties to global events and that nurtures resourcefulness within communities.

Gomez has also noted the influence of mas man Peter Minshall.

“We have to give that fella Minshall credit; they could say what they want,” Gomez once said. “Most of the people who talk about him do the same thing: the same approaches for the Carnival, the same movements and so on. He came up with the ideas before them….I also give him credit too because he always talked about behind the bridge. Carnival is bigger than all of us.” Through it all Gomez was a family man who balanced his passion with his personal responsibilities.

“There is a lot of room for improvement and you never stop learning,” he once said. “Everyday is something new.” May he rest in peace.

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