The destruction of the working-class community landmark Jorge Hernandez Cultural Center, Villa Victoria Center for the Arts in the South End
By: Sofía Pérez Arias
In the 1950 and 60s the city of Boston and the Boston Redevelopment Authority decided that the South End was "blighted".
Urban Renewal aimed at demolishing homes where many Puerto Rican tenants lived. However, these tenants organized themselves and fought back. The Puerto Rican Tenants in Action were later given the rights to develop on the parcel which is now known as Villa Victoria.
From this struggle, the housing development of Villa Victoria was formed, which provides low and moderate income housing to many families. Alongside these homes, the Jorge Hernandez Cultural Center was establishes to provide for the needs of the community.
In December 2020, the Jorge Hernández Cultural Center was demolished.
Around the same time, the Harriet Tubman House, another community space just a few blocks away was also demolished.
Even though Villa Victoria has protections due to the rights tenants fought for in 1968; the need for further redevelopment and the demolition of the original Jorge Hernandez Cultural Center church is only a seed of the impacts of gentrification in Boston.
In December 2020, Villa Victoria Center for the Arts, formerly known as Jorge Hernández Cultural Center, was demolished. Located on 85 West Newton St in the South End, it was originally built as All Saints Lutheran Church and later made into a community space for programming, performances, dances, conferences, concerts and a landmark for Baricua culture and programming. The space has been a hub for the non-profit Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (the Puerto Rican Tenants in Action and Emergency Tenants Coalition or IBA) since 1986.The center stemmed from the radical history of Boricua tenant organizing during Boston’s urban renewal.
The demolition of the church was difficult for many with deep memories and experiences in the building. The destruction and displacement of the arts center are symbolic of the fate of the Latino community in the South End.