History or Heritage?

After a week and a half of exploration through the narrow passages among the winding streets of Boston much can be said about the character of the city. I once read that what makes a historic, or ancient city so beautiful is the potential to get lost. It is the romantic passages that cease at large boulevards, greenways, and busy markets or the aging brick that accumulates stories to tell. The anecdotes we tell of heroism and courage let the imagination roar creating images of the narrations that we all listen to intently. It is the midst of these narrow brick passages that we distinguish history and heritage.

Passageway used for the underground railroad.

Passageway used for the underground railroad.

“The difference between history and heritage according to David Lowenthal and Michael Kammen is that heritage only celebrates those aspects of history that are agreed upon and valued by a group leaving out problematic information. So, heritage becomes this nostalgic and innocent idea of the past that uses symbols instead of facts to convey historical meaning.” I was faced with this conflict as I respond to MY history and heritage in the storylines amongst the brick and mortar of Bostonian streets. Saturday mornings are market mornings. See, Haymarket has this homey feel of Yucca and Platanos along submerged meat markets and bodegas “al aire libre” as my mother would say. So I browse carefully asking for 5 oranges and some cilantro and as I pronounce the names I realize that within the market there is a world of culture. There is a million oranges and naranjas, with different flavors and no, its not just a Spanglish ceviche but a sancocho of Arabic, French, Creole, Mandarin and Portuguese too many to count or to even distinguish. This is how I go back home every week. When Charles Bulfinch and Alexander Parris were commissioned for their contribution to Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market they were thinking of the markets that have dominated trade and culture for thousands of years. The market offers the interaction and blending of culture that introduces one spice to a whole empire, an innovation that is the foundation to communication, trade and an economy. The market that is the tents and boxes set up on Friday and Saturday mornings across the street from the Green line and Orange line Haymarket stop. It is here at this market where I begin to resolve my conflicts with narrations of Bostonian history and American exceptionalism. Where I begin to point out that there is a hidden history behind the markings along the Freedom Trail and the missing Black Heritage Trail. The reminder that American exceptionalism is the ethnocentrism that has left out black history and still leaves out the Latinx/Chicano history. American exceptionalism is the American ethnocentrism that does not provide multilingual resources, or does not intentionally reach out to diverse communities in fear of change.
La Sociedad Latina students and Zoomx media students getting ready to head home after a long day at George's Island.

La Sociedad Latina students and Zoomx media students getting ready to head home after a long day at George’s Island.

To outreach is not to invite people of color to NPS events that are catered to white heritage. Intentional outreach for diverse visitors assesses the current issues; it listens and makes an effort to include our histories into one. It is intentional. Amidst the brick and mortar of the brick walls, deep within the first in lay of brick is MY history waiting to be told. Within the walls of Catholic churches and among the housing waiting to be replaced with market rate, and across the water are my neighbors and our mixed accents slurred with sazon y queso frito. It is here where the journey begins to provide Latinos in Boston with Latino history, to let East Boston ESL students tell their oral history and their migration stories to remind everyone who the 65th regiment was. So during my browsing at the market and in the bodegas I’ll be conversing, asking, and inviting Latinos and others in Boston to join the Park Service in some programming and ideas for the entity that is the Boston community.          

No Comments

Post A Comment