Culture Spreading Through the City


By Roxana J. Martinez

The sound of salsa music could be heard a block away, booming from somewhere farther up the street, interwoven with loud laughter and excited shouting. A few steps more down the street and one would see the park behind the Blackstone Community Center in the midst of a Salsa gala.

The event, Salsa in the Park, was created in order to decrease youth crime within the neighborhood by employing young people in order to keep them off the street. The popular event, held every Monday on West Brookline Street in the South End, can gather up to 500 people.

The numbers, however, aren’t the most astounding part of the story. It’s what is actually going on in the park that is truly captivating.

As salsa music pours through the speakers, accompanied by grooves from maracas, bongos and congas alike, a flood of people take to the floors to dance. Yet, for the predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, a spectrum of different races joined in the celebration. For every person who was Hispanic, there was another person who was white, Asian, or African American. Pairings consisted of partners of different races, and of all age ranges — even children were dipping their partners when the music called for it.

“Salsa has become a ballroom,” says Sandra Marcelino, while manning a table selling merchandise to promote the celebration. Salsa has become a gateway for connecting different types of people, and bringing them to one single place for the same reason.

“I think the diversity makes it so special,” Marcelino added.

A popular form of dancing embedded with roots that are especially deep within Puerto Rico and Cuba, the influence that salsa holds in this part of the South End is a strong example of how Boston seems to be starting to embrace the culture of its minorities.

Boston, a city that is famous for the pride it has in its Irish-Catholic ancestry, is quickly becoming a ground in which different backgrounds are coming together. There will always be a St. Patrick’s Day Parade, but other festivities, such as the Puerto Rican Festival, the Cape Verdean Festival, and the Caribbean Carnival Festival are gathering more attention from the public.

As the diversity blooms, smaller examples of it can be seen just walking down the streets of the South End. One may see a pizzeria, a Chinese restaurant, a Caribbean restaurant, a Dominican owned barbershop, or ironically, a Hispanic corner market right across the street from a Starbucks.

What does this mean for Boston? As the Hub is expanding, and not just in terms of construction or population, the types of people here are expanding as well, causing it to be richer to see and be a part of.

Marcelino said it best as she looked over at the flurry of mixed faces and bodies, all moving to the same music from where she resided: “This is a great landscape for what Boston is.”

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