Artes Pa'lante

Hyde Square Task Force

Funding Received: 2015
Boston, MA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
July 1, 2016


A fantastical Latin American Spectacle brought Boston’s Latin Quarter to life over Memorial Day weekend. The production showcased 50 Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF) youth leader actors, dancers, singers, and the production team of the world-renowned Double Edge Theatre Company and the Charlestown Working Theater. Swinging high from the rafters of the Blessed Sacrament Church, youth and professional artists put on an awe-inspiring show and then lead the audience on a parade which filled Centre Street and Mozart Park in Jamaica Plain.

Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF) is located in Boston’s Hyde/Jackson Square neighborhood, also known as “Boston’s Latin Quarter”, a community with a rich Afro-Latin cultural history.  Families hail from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Central and South America, and West and East Africa. Over the past 10 years the neighborhood has become more desirable, causing housing and retail rents to skyrocket, and another wave of upper middle-income professionals and families have joined the community.

Thanks in part to generous funding from ArtPlace America, we had the opportunity to form a partnership with the innovative Double Edge Theatre Company in February 2016. In addition to modifying their production of Once in a Blue Moon – Cada Luna Azul to be site specific to Boston’s Latin Quarter, the professional theater troupe traveled from Western Massachusetts to Boston monthly to train our youth artists as cast members. From February until May, internationally acclaimed artist Carlos Uriona and Argentinian musical sensations Manuel Uriona and Micaela Farias trained rigorously with youth actors to learn the intricate songs, dances, aerial training, and stagecraft necessary to make the Spectacle truly spectacular.

The Latin American Spectacle follows the story of Agua Santa, a mythical Latin American town that has become unrecognizable to a man returning home after many years away. This type of cultural and community loss is becoming increasingly salient in Boston’s Latin Quarter and urban neighborhoods around the United States and the tale includes a deeper message: that our aspirations of new “progress” and "development" can often displace the people who originally made the space special.

During the production, the enormous and beautiful Blessed Sacrament church building opened its doors to over 750 neighbors and visitors for the first time in 12 years. The building was closed to the public in 2004; although HSTF purchased the Church to preserve it as a community asset in 2013, we have not been able to open the space to the public due to city permitting restrictions – until this year! 

As people filled the nave space, teens costumed as brightly-colored birds hung from aerial fabric silk suspended from pillars on either side. Audience members filed into a re-created village, with HSTF teens and professional actors in the roles of villagers. Actors in colorful robes walked on stilts through the audience, and the cavernous church building was filled with songs and drumbeats.

From the church sanctuary, the audience began a colorful procession through the Latin Quarter’s business district to Mozart Park, where the parade ended with dancers twirling in the jets of the sprinklers. Narrator Carlos Uriona kept the Agua Santa village alive in the new location, describing it as a place “where anything can turn miraculous.” A bright hand-painted ¡Viva el Latin Quarter! tapestry fell away to reveal HSTF’s youth leaders and the full cast, who made the ground rumble with a vibrant dance.

We strive to make the Spectacle’s energy the norm in the Latin Quarter. Our youth leaders perform and teach Afro-Latin dance, music, and theater throughout the year. HSTF is committed to maintaining a vibrant community and preserving Afro-Latin arts and culture through public art, programming, and much more! 

The Latin American Spectacle was the kickoff to an exciting and unforgettable period in Boston’s Latin Quarter. Free programming will continue through our summer series, ¡Viva! el Latin Quarter, which runs four nights a week from June 21 through August 12. The series invites people to come together to enjoy free theater, Zumba, concerts, and movies.

HSTF’s youth leaders will show their friends and neighbors how every night can be a spectacle with the combined efforts of people who care about community and celebrate culture.