Local Youth Lead Effort to Recognize Jamaica Plain as ‘Boston’s Latin Quarter’

Next week the Boston City Council will hold a hearing on designating the Hyde-Jackson Square neighborhood of Jamaica Plain as “Boston’s Latin Quarter.”

HSTF Dance at Mozart Park in Hyde/Jackson Square

HSTF Dance at Mozart Park in Hyde/Jackson Square

This effort has been spearheaded by predominantly Latino teens of the Hyde Square Task Force, a youth community development non-profit. The teens have been working with District 6 City Councilor Matt O’Malley on this issue for the last few months. O’Malley previously proposed making the neighborhood as Boston’s official Latin quarter.

This hearing will actually be held in Jamaica Plain by the Boston City Council Committee on Arts, Culture and Special Events on Monday, April 4, at the Connolly Branch Library (433 Centre St.) at 6 pm.

At a time when Latinos are being attacked by Donald Trump and his supporters around the country, the Hyde Square Task Force believes that it is more important than ever to promote positive aspects of the Latino culture.

“This neighborhood is important to my family members who own businesses in this area,” said Mabel Gondres, a teen leader at the Hyde Square Task Force. “Having a vibrant Latin Quarter will bring people here for food and culture and that will be good for business, just like in the North End and Chinatown,” she added.

For the past 60 years, the Hyde-Jackson Square neighborhood has been an entry point for thousands of Latino immigrants from the Caribbean and South and Central America. Currently, 65% of the 125 businesses on Centre Street in the area are owned by Latino immigrants.

The teens, working with others, have developed a vision for the Latin Quarter which is:

• 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

“Designating the Hyde-Jackson community as Boston’s Latin Quarter is an acknowledgement of the role that Latino culture (food, crafts, art, traditions) plays in making this neighborhood a vibrant, diverse, and thriving place for anyone to live or visit,” said Vanessa Aguirreche Snow, who grew up in Hyde-Jackson Square and is manager of Organizing and Policy Initiatives at Hyde Square Task Force.

By getting an official designation Hyde Square Task Force hopes to engage the City of Boston in providing resources and professional/technical support for the area. In addition, getting this city designation is a first step towards becoming an official cultural district that is recognized by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.