Majority of residents, officials support naming Hyde/Jackson ‘Latin Quarter’ during hearing

The vast majority of attendees at an April 4 City Council committee hearing were in favor of a measure designating the Hyde Square and Jackson Square area as “Boston’s Latin Quarter.”

The effort to name the area is being spearheaded by the Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF), a youth-oriented nonprofit that has many Latino teen members.

About 75 people, including many elected officials, attended the meeting at the Connolly Branch Library in Hyde Square. The hearing was held by the City Council Committee on Arts, Culture, and Special Events, with Jamaica Plain City Councilor Matt O’Malley helping to run it.

Having previously been supportive of the designating the area as Boston’s Latin Quarter, O’Malley said that the naming “is going to recognize what a wonderfully vibrant and diverse part of this city that our neighborhood is.”

Local state Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez said, “I stand in full support of this designation because it’s important for us to have that identity, that certification of an identity, in this community. All of us are looking to where we’re from, what we do, and who are the people who have made a difference.”

Other elected officials, such as local state Rep. Liz Malia and the City’s Health and Human Services chief Felix Arroyo, also spoke in favor of the designation.

Several Jamaica Plain youths made statements about why they supported the name change. HSTF member Gianni Bermudez said that it would help for him “not to be judged for speaking [his] native tongue.” Laurie Pearson, also a HSTF member, said that the official name change would help bring her “closer to her own culture.”

Jerome Smith, who is the City’s chief of civic engagement, told the attendees that he would be working on the process of the naming. Smith said that other groups around Boston are also attempting to designate areas for their cultural backgrounds. He cited as examples Vietnamese residents trying to designate Fields Corner as “Little Saigon,” and Polish residents attempting to designate the Polish Triangle in Dorchester.

“You guys are a lot further on the process than some of the other groups who are thinking about doing this. We’re viewing this as working with you on a process that we’re going to lay out, so that residents around the city when they come out to come up with ideas to support their culture, have a process to look to,” said Smith.

Gerald Robbins, executive director of Hyde/Jackson Square Main Street, said in an email to the Gazette that the business promotional organization coined the tagline Boston’s Latin Quarter ten years ago for the area, but is now reviewing if that term continues to be the best way market the area.

“In the early 2000s we began messaging to spotlight the diversity and vibrancy of the neighborhood,” Robbins said, and that it was successful in many ways.

“There are two things the community should think about when analyzing Boston’s Latin Quarter: is the idea of Hyde and Jackson Squares being the center of Latino people, culture, and commerce–now and in the future–correct?” said Robbins. “And if so, does Boston’s Latin Quarter as a phrase evoke this concept?”

Hyde Jackson Main Street launched a community asset mapping project on March 8, 2016, at their annual meeting. The project is a 12-month project “which will inform us and the neighborhood of the strengths of our community,” said Robbins. The sole purpose is not only to analyze the tagline Boston’s Latin Quarter, but it is a piece of the analysis, according to Robbins.

At the meeting, Robbins said “the community asset mapping project will determine whether or not this is the best way to market our community.”

For more information about the Community Asset Mapping project, visit: www.hydejacksonsquare.org. People interested in volunteering can also contact Hyde Jackson Main Street at 617-522-3694 or at [email protected].

O’Malley and Smith indicated that the next step was not exactly clear for the initiative, but that they would be working on passing resolutions and deciding on official next steps in the coming months.

The issue remained in the City Council Committee on Arts, Culture, and Special Events at the Gazette deadline.

“On the legal end, there’s just a few more things we need to do to make sure we’re dotting our i’s and crossing our t’s,” said Smith.

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