Latino Loss in Boston

Parts of Massachusetts saw several minority candidates take office in municipal elections this week. Chinese-American Lisa Wong became Mayor of Fitchburg and Lawrence elected four Latinos to its City Council.

But in Boston, the one Latino representative on the City Council, Felix Arroyo, lost his at-large seat. WBUR's Monica Brady-Myerov reports on what this means for the city.


MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: In Hyde Square, which is largely Hispanic, there are a few signs for Felix Arroyo, the two term city councilor who became the first Latino on the council in 2003. Jesus Gerena was happy to have him there. He works with young people as director of community development at the Hyde Square Task Force.

JESUS GERENA: I think that Felix was a huge advocate. You would always look at the council whenever you needed an issue or a problem solves you went to the people who you felt like had a better understanding of where you were coming from.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Despite his links to the Latino community, Arroyo was outspent by his opponents and in a day that had record low turnout, lost his seat. Gerena says it's a loss for Latinos in the city, who make up about 15% of the population.

JESUS GERENA: Many times the children of our communities when they look at city hall they don't see themselves and we've talking about that's desperate we really need to have that because it we are going to turn the city over to them one day we need to teach them and give them the inspiration to be able to take on that leadership.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: At the Cristal Restaurant in Hyde Square, Fior daLisa, a Dominican, says she was a supporter of Arroyo.

FIOR DALISA: I feel sorry for him, I would have liked for him to win. But I couldn't vote.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Delisa couldn't vote because even though she is a legal resident, she is not a US Citizen. Arroyo championed the causes of immigrants like daLisa. This summer he proposed allowing legal residents like her to vote in municipal elections. It was defeated.

GIOVANNA NEGRETTI: It's a huge loss not having Felix there. Just by his mere presence symbolizing the changing face of the city of Boston.

Giovanna Negretti is the executive director of Oiste, a Latino political organization.

GIOVANNA NEGRETTI: He was a very hard working despite what the Boston Globe reports, he is a very hard working city counselor. What he did was something unique, he put issues that were very controversial on the table for people to discuss and that's what we are going to lose.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: The Boston Globe reported Arroyo's attendance at council meeting was spotty and said he didn't hold many committee meetings. The Globe, which endorsed him in previous races, did not this time.

Larry DiCara, city councilor from 1972 to 1981 says this election shows that many of the people who live in the city now are not concerned with city issues.

LARRY DICARA: In recent years for a number of reasons, the turnout across the city has been more level. This election, from what I could see just looking at the statistics I looked at yesterday not the final statistics, appear to revert to a more traditional model, in the more traditional model the heaviest votes come from neighborhoods which are white, more Irish than anything else, and with large numbers of public employees.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Felix Arroyo attributes his loss to poor fundraising and no preliminary election. He says he wants his defeat to spur change.

FELIX ARROYO: I simply hope that it's a wake up call to Latinos that they need to be participants and develop coalitions and work with other people in order to be represented in the decision making roles that the city have because if that happens it's healthy for everyone.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: While there will no longer be a Latino on the Boston City Council, a year and a half ago council members and their staff started learning to speak Spanish.

For WBUR I'm Monica Brady-Myerov.

This program aired on November 8, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.


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