Centre Street in Hyde and Jackson Squares now has honorary street signs dubbing it “Avenida de las Americas,” or “Avenue of the Americas,” six years after the idea was approved by the Boston City Council.
The signs, which do not change the official name of Centre Street, went up late last month and are intended to honor the area’s Latin American cultural heritage. They are similar to the honorary “Avenue of the Arts” designation for Huntington Avenue near the Museum of Fine Arts.
An unveiling ceremony June 22 at Mozart Park included former City Councilor Felix D. Arroyo, who proposed the signs, and his son, current City Councilor Felix G. Arroyo, who recently pushed to get them made and installed. The elder Arroyo is visiting here from his home in Uruguay to work on his son’s mayoral campaign.
“That’s not just white letters on a blue metal sign,” Felix G. Arroyo said to a sizeable crowd at the ceremony. “That’s the City of Boston saying, ‘We see you. We recognize you. You matter. You’ve contributed greatly to our city.’”
Other speakers included Daphne Griffin’s, the city’s chief of human services; longtime mayoral aide and community activist Tony Barros; and Hyde Square Task Force Executive Director Claudio Martinez.
“The dedication of Avenida de las Americas celebrates the great cultural richness and diversity of our City and the Jamaica Plain community,” said Mayor Thomas Menino in a press statement, adding that “Avenida de las Americas will be a source of pride for Boston residents and visitors for generations to come.”
Local City Councilor Matt O’Malley, who was in the audience for the ceremony, told the Gazette that the signs celebrate “the wonderful, vibrant Latino community in JP.”
The signs are installed at various intersections between Canary Square at Centre and S. Huntington Avenue and Jackson Square at Centre and Columbus Avenue. It is unclear why it took six years for them to be installed.
The signs came out of efforts to recognize the Latino community. Around the same time, Hyde Square merchants and other advocates began marketing the neighborhood as Boston’s “Latin Quarter.”
The honorary street naming had a controversial history. Originally, it was linked to an effort to rename Mozart Park at Centre and Mozart streets as “Parque de las Americas” and to erect a statue to Latin American revolutionary hero Simón Bolívar somewhere in Boston—ideas that drew some negative community comments. When Felix D. Arroyo finally got the signs approved, neither of those ideas was part of the proposal. Also, the signs originally were approved and promoted as a half-English, half-Spanish mishmash, “Avenue las Americas.”
Originally, the elder Arroyo also intended the City-provided signs to be accompanied by flags representing various Latin American countries, to be paid for by a nonprofit organization. Flags are not included in the current plan.