Spreading Hope for the Future
Last Thursday, our community gathered in Plaza Betances for our annual Tree Lighting. Residents – young and old – were joined by friends, family, and city officials as they came together to enjoy traditional Puerto Rican parrandas music, a visit from Santa, and, of course, light the beautiful tree.
Our CEO, Vanessa Calderón-Rosado, deemed the event one of her favorite community gatherings of the year. “This is a great event to bring the warmth of the Christmas spirit from Puerto Rican & Latin America to this winter weather in Boston. Singing parrandas around the tree feels so warm, like we’re home.”
Before everyone gathered around the tree, our resident band paraded around the neighborhood to spread holiday cheer. Led by the extraordinary voice of our beloved Villa community member, Doña Maria Flores, the band brought their music to the homes and businesses of the area, singing door to door and putting a smile on everyone’s face as they made their way to the Plaza.
When the music made it’s final stop in Plaza Betances, it was just in time for the arrival of Mayor Marty Walsh, who played a maraca along to the parrandas music and was given the microphone to lead everyone in singing “Feliz Navidad.” Other city officials in attendance joined in the fun too, including the Boston Police Department’s Sgt. Lucas Taxter and Superintendent-in-chief William Gross, South End City Councilman Sam Chambers, and Felix Arroyo, the city’s Chief of Health and Human Services, who was born in our community of Villa Victoria.
The decorated windows from the buildings surrounding the plaza made the perfect backdrop for the shining tree in the center, everyone could see that the whole community had come together to share this special moment. Along with Santa, Mayor Walsh led the countdown to light the tree (see below) and everyone burst into cheers and song to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season.
Following the tree lighting, Mayor Walsh took a few minutes to speak with our youth about the recent presidential election and address some of the concerns that have risen in the community. Walsh explained that coming from a family of immigrants, he promises that the city and the BPD have already spoken and agreed that “[the city is] not going to take that aggressive approach, and if the federal government proposes anything on that matter that [he will] fight it 100 percent.” In fact, Walsh encouraged our youth to spread this message, so immigrants know that “Boston is a safe city.”
Our Youth Arts Coordinator, Pedro Cruz, said Walsh’s words came at the perfect time and answered questions the youth had without them having to ask the Mayor themselves. “It was a good response because in the Youth Program we’ve been talking about that for a lot of stuff and they do express a lot of fears and confusion.”
In reaction to the mayor’s words about the new administration, Calderón-Rosado said, “We have to remain vigilant; and, like the Mayor said, ‘we are not going to let it happen.’ So we are going to be vigilant and ready to fight back to protect our community.”
Superintendent-in-chief William Gross, gave the youth some inspiring words of his own, saying, “You all are what the future is going to look like. You’re going to be the future leaders – the mayor, the police, the commissioners, the chiefs. Remember, you have to stick together and learn about each other’s cultures.” He joked, “I love different cultures, just look at my belly.”
Chief Gross invited our youth to take a field trip to his office in 2017, which he described as his “personal museum;” and he left them with these inspiring words, “Respect each other, respect that you have a difference of opinion, be able to accept constructive criticism, and this next one is really, really important, learn your history. Because if you learn your history, no one can touch [you].”
Calderón-Rosado stressed the significance of this event and the many others like it that IBA hosts throughout the year, “Bringing people together around such a nice and beautiful tradition is very important, especially in this new norm.”
Afterward, our residents, feeling full of the holiday spirit, gathered in our Villa Victoria Center for the Arts to continue the celebration with an impromptu concert from our Villa Band and traditional Latin American dishes such as arroz con gandules, pork, and flan.
Thank you to all those who came and joined us in holiday cheer. To continue spreading the warmth of our supportive community, please donate here. Remember, no amount is too small.