Sunday, September 27, 2009

Eastie's continued significance

Alvaro Uribe, the president of Colombia, was in the US last week to attend the opening session of the UN General Assembly. While in the States he took a side trip to Massachusetts and spoke to about 500 of his countrymen and countrywomen yesterday at East Boston High School.

The Globe described the event as a "town meeting" and said that Uribe (pictured during the playing of the Colombian national anthem) spoke for more than an hour. Most of the people who came out, the story says, expressed support of the conservative president, who has sharply reduced the violence in his country. There were some protesters outside and at least one angry questioner inside, as Uribe's law-enforcement crackdown has apparently gone hand-in-hand with human-rights violations.

The appearance of a South American president in our neighborhood reaffirms something I realized a couple years ago: East Boston is the New England capital for Latin American immigrants. This may be old news to some and surprising to others; I'm just saying it's interesting to me. The regional Salvadoran consulate is in Eastie, as is the New England Gallery of Latin American Art. Recent May Day and immigrants' rights marches have started or ended in Central Square.

I recently wrote a piece on the importance of East Boston to the Jewish immigration experience, and before that the Irish -- including the beginnings of the Kennedy clan -- came here to flee famine and build ships. Between the Jews and the Latinos, the Italians came and made the neighborhood their own. Today the significance of our little dollop of land continues.

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