Painting Puerto Rican pride in South Boston

Artist Héctor Collazo (back center) celebrates the completion of the Puerto Rican Flag mural with the community of Villa Victoria. PHOTO: COURTESY OF IBA

VThe proud Puerto Rican community of illa Victoria has a vibrant new reason to celebrate its heritage: a mural of the Puerto Rican flag by artist Héctor Collazo. Organized by Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA) and Restaurant Vejigantes, the mural is a continuation of Collazo’s “78 Pueblos y 1 Bandera” project, painting Puerto Rican flags in different styles throughout the island. By artistically planting the flag here in Boston, the Puerto Rican community is claiming their neighborhood.

A view of the finished Puerto Rican flag mural in the archway. PHOTO: COURTESY OF IBA

“The creation of a place in Boston for the Latin American community of the South End is lacking. It’s not as visual. This is the most important aspect that brought us to work, ”explains Juan Carlos Gonzalez, director of the artistic program at IBA. “And at this time of year the Latin American community gets very nostalgic, mainly because in Puerto Rico we celebrate the holidays, Christmas, Thanksgiving and so on.”

The mural is located in Plaza Betances, in and around an architectural arch next to the Vejigantes restaurant. Collazo notices that in a way he was able to paint several flags. One is outside the structure and the other adorns the arched ceiling. “Not only will it allow people on the outside to see the flag whether they are walking or driving… it’s a great opportunity to invite people into space,” says Collazo. The flags are painted in two different styles but embody the same pride.

Collazo started the project “78 Pueblos y 1 Bandera” after the death of his brother. Traveling around the island has become an important part of the artist’s grieving process. During this trip, he realized that there was no unifying link from one city to another. As a result, he began to paint a Puerto Rican flag wherever he went, connecting the island in an artistic spirit. There is oneshe of her murals in the continental United States, in Miami, but Boston was one of the first to be adorned with a flag.

“It’s almost like bringing a piece of the island to the Latin community in Boston,” says Collazo.

And that’s exactly what IBA and Vejigantes were hoping for. During the pandemic, when movement is uncertain and communities are physically separated, a visual reminder of shared heritage goes a long way in boosting morale.

“People who live here in the Boston area sometimes cannot afford to return to Puerto Rico. Some can’t go back to Puerto Rico at all, ”says Gonzalez. “So the goal is that the community can come to this mural, to the flag, and remember where it came “

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