On Friday July 22nd, the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation in Boston, Massachusetts visited the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Department to learn about the history of Villa Victoria and Puerto Rican culture in Boston’s South End. Julián Huertas, a Designing the Parks intern for the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation through the Hispanic Access Foundation and the Latino Heritage Internship Program, planned and coordinated the event for Latino Conservation Week, which promotes civic engagement and education of Latinos in the United States about the outdoors, preservation, and conservation.
With an archivist at Northeastern University, the group toured the archive facility and analyzed the extensive archived reports, papers, documents, maps, city plans, and photographs of Villa Victoria in the South End of Boston. In the 1960s, the Boston Redevelopment Authority labeled Parcel 19, the twenty-acre community in the South End that contained about 2,000 Puerto Ricans, as an area for urban renewal. The residents, understanding that redevelopment would price them out, took action and collectively gained the support from other local residents, neighbors, priests, architects, college volunteers, and redevelopment professionals. The Puerto Rican residents eventually did win the right to keep Villa Victoria and stay in Parcel 19, marking a landmark event in the city of Boston that demonstrates to this day the significance of Puerto Rican heritage and culture, grass-roots activism, political organization, civil liberties, and historic preservation.
After the visit to the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Department, the group visited Villa Victoria in person to experience the current ethos and atmosphere of the community. The neighborhood and community is still incredibly alive, vibrant, and proud of their heritage. The history and legacy of Latino culture perseveres in Boston and New England as the success of Villa Victoria is still remembered to this day.