When President Christine Kangaloo was inaugurated last Monday at the Queen’s Park Savannah as this country’s seventh Head of State, little was known about the man who sat next to her at the ceremony. He is now to be known as His Excellency Kerwyn Garcia and he has been married to President Kangaloo for the last 24 years.
Life for this private man, who has practiced as an attorney in civil advocacy areas for three decades, has just taken a very different turn.
“I’ve had a very private life and I have valued that privacy. One of the challenges about being married to the President of the Republic is that one has to yield sometimes, I imagine more often than one might like, to the need to interface with the public in relation to the duties that one is called upon to perform. I am willing and I happy to do that,” Garcia said in his first interview yesterday.
It might be surprising to many that Garcia has been able to stay out of the spotlight for such a long time. He has watched his wife serve in many different roles in public service for more than two decades while his father, Anthony Garcia, served as Education Minister after being elected to the House of Representatives in 2015 as the MP for Arima.
“I mean to be quite frank I believe in trying to do one’s best in one’s particular circumstances. I suppose you could say I try to blossom wherever I’m planted,” he said.
Garcia’s roots in Arima keep him grounded and connected with east Trinidad. He told the story of his mother having to get a pass to get through a Black Power march in 1970 to get to the Arima District Hospital to give birth to him. He attended Arima Boys’ Government School, was baptised at the Santa Rosa RC Church, and was an acolyte at the Malabar RC Church.
“So as Holly Betaudier might have said I’m Gens Arime,” he said.
Both his parents, as well as his sister, were teachers. Garcia took a different route into law, studying the first year of his degree at the University of the West Indies’ St Augustine before completing his next two years at Cave Hill in Barbados. As an avid cricket fan, the pitch that sits in the middle of the university excited him. When he’s talking about cricket, he’s West Indian and boasts at Cave Hill he either watched or played cork ball cricket every day.
Garcia, who enjoys reading books on business, must now balance his private law practice with his duties as First Gentleman. His wife has made no secret of the fact that she wants him involved in many of the initiatives she pitched during her inaugural address to the nation, namely culture and the arts.
“It’s going to be a challenge. I was saying to Her Excellency just this morning that my head is spinning because I have all of these responsibilities I continue to have to discharge to my clients and then I have to get my head around all of the responsibilities of First Gentleman but Her Excellency and I have always supported each other 110 per cent and throughout our marriage and I expect I will have her support and she will have mine and I have no doubt we are going to ease into this just fine,” he said.
That mutual support proved important during the transition of power this year. From the Prime Minister’s nomination of President Kangaloo, the Opposition had objected to the choice as Kangaloo was at the time Senate President.
He said: “We are human beings, all of us, and all of us feel hurt and feel pain. I think the challenge has been for us to rise above it and not just to rise above it as though it is something to be brushed away and not taken on but to try to understand it, to try to embrace it, and that has been our journey.”
Garcia says they had to welcome it “as part of the national tapestry.”