In his recent letter to the Gazette, “Latin Quarter Name Change Risky” (4/29/2016), Frank Stone states, “The last thing JP needs is some thug or thugs who think only Latinos are allowed into the Latin Quarter.” He then expresses a fear that “we will retreat into cultural and racial divisions that took so very much effort to end years ago.”
I would like to use this opportunity to calm Mr. Stone’s fears and to affirm that this initiative is grounded in respect for the neighborhood’s rich Latin and Afro-Latin culture, a commitment to inclusiveness, and a desire for a dynamic, diverse, and safe urban environment.
The youth leaders of the Hyde Square Task Force, local business owners, and a broader constituency of neighborhood residents recently developed the following vision for the Latin Quarter:
- A safe, clean and economically, racially, linguistically and culturally diverse neighborhood
- A dynamic, diverse, locally-owned/managed business district that includes Latin foods, goods, services, and specialty shops
- A hub for the development and celebration of Latin and Afro-Latin art that also creates cross-cultural artistic opportunities and supports emerging artists
- A place for public art, open spaces, and lively street cultural events that project a “Latin flavor” and enhance local businesses
- The home of a thriving Arts/Cultural/Civic Center in the former Blessed Sacrament Church that creates community through an exciting variety of events, programs, and activities.
- A stimulating destination place for local residents, families, and tourists where all feel welcome, energized and engaged.
This vision has been supported by over 1,000 local residents on a petition, local business leaders, artists, activists, members of Mayor Walsh’s Cabinet, leaders at the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and the City Council in a recent unanimous vote.
There is a long and rich history in the United States of showcasing and celebrating ethnic neighborhoods as a way to bring cultural and economic vibrancy to urban areas. For example, we have India Square in Jersey City, Koreatown in L.A., Mexicantown in Detroit, Little Haiti in Miami, and Little Brazil in Manhattan. Dozens of cities have a Chinatown and/or a Little Italy. These cultural and business districts serve as magnets for area residents and tourists from the United States and abroad. They generally carry the imprimatur of city and state governments, which provide assistance through branding, marketing, and economic development funds.
I encourage Mr. Stone to come to the Latin Quarter on Saturday and Sunday evening of Memorial Day Weekend, where there will be a free outdoor “Latin American Spectacle.” This collaboration between the Hyde Square Task Force, Double-Edge Theatre, and Charlestown Working Theater, will be a theatrical, musical and dance extravaganza that will include over 100 performers. In addition, the Hyde Square Task Force will be sponsoring over 30 free outdoor cultural activities from May to September in our Viva El Latin Quarter series. Please join us, Mr. Stone, and feel the positive vibe.
Hyde Square Task Force