Over the past 60 years, waves of immigrants from Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Central and South America have landed in the Hyde-Jackson neighborhood of Jamaica Plain seeking new opportunities. In the late 1980s the area was described by Boston Police as the “cocaine capital of New England,” rife with disinvestment, crime, drugs and violence. But over the past 25 years the Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF) has taken the lead in a mobilization to transform this neighborhood into a bustling business and cultural district.
In recent years, in order to preserve the cultural identity of this changing neighborhood, many groups including Hyde Jackson Square Main Street, JP Neighborhood Development Corporation, and HSTF have worked together to brand this neighborhood as Boston’s Latin Quarter. In 2013, Mayor Menino sanctioned the effort by declaring that Centre Street in Hyde-Jackson Square as “Avenida de las Americas” and the City installed new street signs at every corner. Just as Boston has an Italian North End, a Chinatown, the Dudley area, rich in African-American culture, and an Irish South Boston, we now, as of 2016, have a vibrant Latin Quarter.
In Boston’s Latin Quarter one finds crowded Dominican barbershops, a variety of Latin cuisine, Whole Foods, corner bodegas, and restaurants catering to the foodie demographic, while cars cruise by blasting the latest Bachata hit song. The diversity of businesses demonstrate both the Latino roots of the neighborhood as well as the more recent influx of young professionals/families, hipsters and artists. With a wide range of incomes, races and ethnicities, the Hyde Jackson neighborhood has been described as one of Boston’s most diverse communities.
Vision for Boston’s Latin Quarter
There are several reasons why now is the time to further ignite the Latin Quarter:
- Since 1990, the number of Latinos in Boston has increased by more than 74%. In Massachusetts, the Latino population increased by 46% between 2000 and 2010. The U.S. Census predicts that by 2060, Latinos will comprise over 34% of the total U.S. population.
- HSTF has recently refocused its youth development programming on Latin and Afro-Latin arts, establishing relationships with some of Boston’s premier Afro-Latin artists, and serving over 1,200 youth per year.
- The iconic Blessed Sacrament Church building, the Jewel of the Latin Quarter with its expansive outdoor plaza, will be developed into an Afro-Latin Cultural/Events Center.
- The area has over 125 businesses including many Latino specialty shops and restaurants; 65% of the businesses are immigrant-owned.
- The Latin Quarter has a large number of affordable-housing developments such as Bromley-Heath, Academy I, Betsaida Gutierrez Co-op, and Stoney Brook Gardens. And over 900 units of new mixed-income housing are on-line for construction in a neighborhood that is rich in cultural, racial and economic diversity.
- The $250 million transit-oriented Jackson Square Development Project anchors the east end of the Latin Quarter, where there will be 420 units of housing, an ice rink/ recreation center, a youth and family center and 67,000 square feet of retail/commercial space.
- Many new residents are moving into the area, attracted by its cultural vibrancy and diversity. We have the opportunity to maintain the Latin identity/history while welcoming and integrating the newcomers into the Latin Quarter’s social fabric.
We envision the Latin Quarter to be:
- 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 Afro-Latin Cultural/Event Center in the Blessed Sacrament Church building 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.