“Here we are, we have our flag, finally.”
Boricuas are proud of their culture and their island. Their flag especially carries big weight; it’s a meaning of resilience, their identity.
In Puerto Rico, it seems all homes have flag representation, in some way or another. But what about Puerto Ricans who live outside of the island? Do they carry the same pride?
With that thought in mind as well as an idea—Why don’t we plant flags in Boston?—the South End restaurant Vejigantes collaborated with Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA Boston) and the Puerto Rican artist Héctor Collazo to bring the flag to the community of Villa Victoria in honor of the Hispanic Heritage Month.
“The goal was to bring a piece of home—PR—to this corner of Boston,” said Juan Carlos González, an IBA Boston spokesman. “[It’s] a place where you can feel you’re in PR.”
The art project, Plantando Banderas, was born after Vejigantes owner Nivia Pina saw on social media the talent of Collazo, specifically the young Puerto Rican artist’s 78 Towns 1 Flag (78 pueblos una bandera) initiative.
“I contacted the management here—IBA Boston—and told them, Listen, I do wanna bring him here, and I want to have a flag here in Massachusetts,” Pina said. “Our management said, Yes, we’re going to collaborate, we’re going to talk to the city and try to get all the permits. And here we are, we have our flag, finally.”
For Collazo, Pina’s proposal was in harmony with his mission of uniting people from every town on the island through their flag, and now internationally.
“For me, it was an honor being invited to Boston,” the artist said. “We can see that a country is always represented in sports, music, and other areas, but in painting it’s rare. … To be able to represent PR through paint, and not only in painting but in bringing our flag to other horizons, I can’t describe it with words.”
On the island, the 78 Towns 1 Flag movement has grown so big that citizens have taken the initiative to turn the project into a community activity in which people gather to spend time with music and food, all while helping Collazo paint the flags.
In the South End, the IBA Boston spokesman said at first he was concerned that it was only Collazo and his girlfriend painting the flag.
“I said to him, Héctor, it’s just the two of you? This is a lot of work. And he told me, Juan Carlos, it’s a lot of work, but when I do these projects, people always join.
As Collazo predicted, Puerto Ricans from all over the country—Connecticut, New York, New Jersey—ultimately joined him to paint the flag, while those who couldn’t paint helped out in other ways, like providing food and equipment to the artists.
“Something very memorable that happened,” Collazo said. “Approximately between 30 to 50 Puerto Ricans arrived, and the grand majority, when I asked them from which town do you come from, said from Villalba, Orocovis, Ponce, Isabela, and so on. There were only like two towns that were repeated, there was a representation of all PR.”
As for the opportunity to complete the mural during Hispanic Heritage Month, “It’s very important,” Pena added. “That’s when we celebrate not only our culture but every Hispanic culture. It’s an amazing way of connecting, and that’s why I want to do it … to bring a little bit of me here, something that represents where we’re from.”
“We’re so proud of being Boricuas that one way or another, outside our island we want to feel united, and by putting our flag up high through art we’re educating others about [PR],” González said.
Coralys is a Puerto Rican journalism graduate student. Currently, she studies at Boston University and interns at DigBoston. In the past, she collaborated with the online newspaper Pulso Estudiantil, the radio program Miss Mundo Contigo, and WIPR.