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Tributes for queen of First Peoples

Published: 
Saturday, July 21, 2018
The late Carib Queen Jennifer Cassar of the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community. PICTURE EDISON BOODOOSINGH

The Santa Rosa First Peoples Community is mourning the death of its Queen Jennifer Cassar.

Cassar, 66, died on Thursday after a brief illness. She would have celebrated her birthday on August 4.

She was elected Queen of the Santa Rosa First Peoples’ Community in 2011, until her death.

Cassar succeeded then “Carib Queen” Valentina Medina, who died at the age of 78.

A statement from the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community said Cassar would be remembered “as being a very warm, humble and compassionate Queen of the Community, who worked tirelessly with the young Community members.”

She was a cultural activist for over 20 years and known for her advocacy for the arts.

In extending condolences to the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community and Cassar’s family, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, in a statement said Cassar was one of the key advocates who lobbied Government to honour a long-standing call for a one-off holiday to formally recognise her Community’s presence and contribution to our country.

Government granted the request and the holiday was celebrated on October 13th, 2017 with Cassar leading a procession through the streets of Arima.

Rowley said Cassar worked tirelessly to sensitise the country to the role and contributions of the First Peoples Community and continuously strived to preserve and revitalise Amerindian history and traditions.

“Queen Cassar’s life was a true depiction of dedication and devotion to her Community and service to the people. May she rest in peace,” the statement said.

Also paying tribute was Arima MP Anthony Garcia, who in a statement said: “As the First Peoples mourn this loss so too do the people of Arima, as Mrs Cassar was a symbol of strength, will and power within this community.

“Though today we feel sadness having experienced this loss, I feel comforted by the fact that as Carib Queen Jennifer Cassar was able to experience the celebration of the First People across Trinidad and Tobago in 2017. This celebration and recognition of the community showed to all of us the vigour, energy and excitement that was Jennifer Cassar as she ceremoniously paraded through the streets in this celebration.”

“Today I take the opportunity to again express my humblest gratitude to Mrs Jennifer Cassar for her yeoman service to the First Peoples Community, to the Borough of Arima and to Trinidad and Tobago. May her life be an example to those in and outside of the Carib community and may her legacy be carried with love, light and positivity. May she rest in peace,” Garcia stated.

Chief Ricardo Bharath-Hernandez described her death as a great loss to the Community, especially coming on the eve of the Santa Rosa De Lima Festival on August 26th 2018, which will mark the 223rd Anniversary of this Festival.

“She was indeed a Queen, for our time,” Bharath-Hernandez stated.

Cassar leaves to mourn her husband Augustin Cassar, a retired school principal and Cadet Force officer, and children, Vanessa Cassar-Blakely and John Cassar.

Funeral arrangements will be announced at a later date.

About Jennifer Cassar

The “Carib Queen” as she was affectionately called, Jennifer Cassar was born on August 4, 1951 at Malabar, Arima to Nicholasa Lara-Pile and Rawle Pile. She is the first of five children.

Her ancestral line was quite deep as she was descended from the full Amerindian bloodline through her maternal great, great, grandparents—Jose and Annicasia Lara (nee Lopez); Great Grandmother Maria Chichita Lara and Grandfather Pablito Lara, also called Hubert de France.

Her paternal grandmother was also of full Amerindian blood from Guyana while her mother was also a descendant of the Caribs.

Cassar was a member and Assistant Secretary of the Santa Rosa First Peoples (Carib) Community.

She was a practising Roman Catholic who lived the Amerindian way of life through her grandparents who observed a staunch indigenous lifestyle through their involvement with the Santa Rosa Festival.

She was a member of the Cabinet-appointed Amerindian Project Committee for five years.

Cassar represented the Santa Rosa First Peoples Carib Community at the 3rd Indigenous Leaders’ Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama in April 2009.

In December of that year she participated in a seminar on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for the Caribbean held in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.

She had was a cultural activist for over 20 years and was a member of the Regional Carnival Commission with responsibility for co-ordinating National Stick-Fighting Competitions.

As a career public servant, Cassar joined the Public Service of T&T in 1971 and served the country for tt 40 years.

She worked in several government ministries including the Ministries of Education, Community Development, Culture, Sports, Health and the Judiciary. She was also a certified Home Health Care professional.

Cassar was also a homemaker. She was married to Augustin Cassar, a retired school principal and Cadet Force officer, and was mother of Vanessa Cassar-Blakely and John Cassar.

As Carib Queen, she dedicated her service to fulfilling one of the dreams of her predecessor, Queen Valentina “Ma Mavis” Medina, which was seeing a united flourishing indigenous community, by encouraging those of Amerindian ancestry to return and become fully involved in the community and to further its development.

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