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Even in poverty, Vaz says she was destined for greatness

Published:Sunday | March 24, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Ann-Marie Vaz has sought to rewrite the script crafted by her rival that she is a woman of means and privilege, arguing that her humble beginnings were the perfect launching pad into representational politics.

“Ann-Marie Vaz is a little girl who grew up in the country in a dirt house without a father, raised by her grandmother. I didn’t know my biological mother until I was nine years old,” said Vaz, who has emerged in the last decade as a staple on social pages in national newspapers.

“Throughout that time, my grandmother loved me so much and made sure that I was instilled with the values that made me understand that no matter where I was, what was more important was where I wanted to go; that my circumstances did not dictate and would not be a barrier to me achieving whatever goals I set out for myself,” Vaz told a Sunday Gleaner team that interviewed her last week in Port Antonio.

Vaz, standard-bearer for the Jamaica Labour Party, will challenge the People’s National Party’s Damion Crawford in a by-election for the Eastern Portland seat on April 4.

The bird-shooting tomboy said that she read a great deal, and she would often be lost in a world of imagination, dreaming about the life she now enjoys.

The now-uptown socialite said that she would have to wake in the wee hours of the morning in House, near Alligator Pond in Manchester, to board a bus to go to The Hampton School, for which she had secured a scholarship.

Vaz said she walked with her uniform blouse in her hand because she did not want it to be soaked in sweat as she trod uphill to catch the bus. When she was close enough to the bus stop, she would use the bushes as cover to put on her blouse and wait for the bus, she said.

“Throughout all that time, I knew there was better coming; throughout the time when I was carrying water on my head to water the scallion garden; throughout the time when I was sleeping in scallion gardens at nights (with other relatives) to prevent praedial larceny, I knew I was destined for something great. I knew that,” she said, recalling her determination.

It was that farming that financed her through high school, and the remark of her principal, “if gold rusts, what will silver do”, was petrol for her will to succeed. She explained that driving force, albeit with some sadness.

Vaz regrets that her aunt, who helped raise her along with her grandmother, died before Vaz could have given her the things she now enjoys.

“My grandmother made me feel like I was a princess. And I knew that this life wasn’t what I wanted. The hunger wasn’t what I wanted. The four or five of us in one room wasn’t what I wanted. I can’t tell what it is specifically other than that the love of my grandmother made me confident in myself that I knew I deserved better than what I was having … . I wanted to be in a position to give her better,” the 53-year-old said of her grandmother, who is closing in on 100 years and who has appeared in a campaign advertisement.

Today, she views as ironic that someone born in the clutches of poverty could be seen as too privileged to represent the marginalised.

“It’s not fair, but it’s the reality, but I don’t have any time to focus on that. I don’t have any control over what people see in me as an accessory to my husband or as being somebody who can pose. The truth of the matter is you only get one chance to have that impression of me … ,” she said.