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Dominican culture and politics mingle in parade

Candidates press for community’s votes

Yawu Miller | 8/14/2017, 5:36 a.m.
From Hyde Square to Franklin Park, thousands of lined the parade route of the Dominican Festival parade Sunday morning as ...
Anairis Santana, Cristal Santana, Someidy Francisco and Jerika Arendell ride on queens float. Banner photo

From Hyde Square to Franklin Park, thousands lined the parade route of the Dominican Festival parade Sunday morning as the annual event returned to Roxbury from downtown.

The festival was relocated to Roxbury’s Clifford Park from City Hall Plaza, a move that brought the event back to neighborhoods that are home to the highest concentrations of Dominicans in the city. Beauty queens, dancing troupes and tricked-out cars constituted the bulk of the parade, but with city elections just weeks away, elected officials were prominent as well.

The mayoral race brought out large contingents of supporters of both Mayor Martin Walsh and City Councilor Tito Jackson. Yet the numerical discrepancy between Jackson’s two dozen supporters and Walsh’s army of several dozen underscored the disparity of resources between the two campaigns.

As Walsh supporters gathered on Centre Street, volunteers grabbed T-shirts from a cardboard box while mulling their choice of campaign materials — wood-handled fans with the mayor’s name, cardboard Dominican flags with “Martin J. Walsh, Alcade (mayor)” printed on the reverse as well as an abundance of buttons and stickers.

The Walsh campaign, which benefits from a war chest of more than $4 million, also seems to enjoy the support of city workers who were sprinkled throughout the mayor’s contingent. As mayor, Walsh also got the designated prime spot at the front of the parade, where he greeted supporters.

Along with Walsh, at-large City Councilor Anissa Essaibi-George and District 6 (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury) Councilor Matt O’Malley marched at the head of the parade in their official capacities as elected officials.

“Boston wouldn’t be the city that it is today without its immigrant communities,” Walsh told the Banner. “The Dominican parade is a great celebration of diversity and heritage that I look forward to every year.”

On message

The Jackson campaign swag included his signature white T-shirts, buttons, stickers and palm cards. The $350 entrance fee for marching in the parade — and the extra $50 for driving a vehicle — put a larger dent in Jackson’s war chest, which at $84,608 (in the July 31 reporting period) is less than one-

fortieth of the mayor’s cash stash.

But Jackson views that as a worthy investment, because the parade represents an excellent opportunity to get in front of voters during a stretch of the campaign season that has seen little in the way of policy debate.

“We’re getting great reception for talking about the rising costs of rents across the city and the massive gentrification in Boston,” Jackson said. “This city needs to have an anti-violence plan in place so we can deal with the 30 percent increase in shootings, and we need to invest in our public schools, not cut their funding.”

Despite hotly contested races in Districts 2 (South Boston, Chinatown, South End) and 7 (Roxbury, Fenway, South End, Jamaica Plain, Dorchester), District 7 candidate Jose Lopez was the lone contender to march, accompanied by a dozen supporters, all wearing light blue shirts, and three cars.

“There are Dominicans all throughout the city of Boston, including in District 7,” Lopez said. “This is a great opportunity to show them that, as a candidate, I’m taking their needs seriously.”

While Dominicans have made political inroads in Massachusetts — securing the Lawrence mayor’s office as well seats on city councils, school committees and in the state’s House of Representatives — much of their political activity remains focused on their home country. Two weeks ago more than 100,000 anti-corruption protesters organized as part of the Marcha Verde movement demonstrated in the streets of the capital, Santo Domingo.

Local protest

In Boston, a contingent of several dozen Marcha Verde demonstrators joined the parade, wearing the movement’s signature green T-shirts, including some with makeshift green flags, to show their support for the growing opposition to the ruling Dominican Liberation Party.

“We’re everywhere — in New York, New Jersey, in Europe and Spain,” said local organizer Jose Arias.

The Boston presence of Marcha Verde members should send a strong message to those in power in Santo Domingo, notes Magalis Troncoso, who heads a local nonprofit. That’s because Dominicans in Boston and other cities across the United States donate money to, campaign for and vote for candidates running for office there.

“People here are really tied to the politics in the Dominican Republic,” she said.