Book Review: Vanessa Calderon-Rosado on Villa Victoria

  |   Imagine Boston Reading List

Vanessa Calderon-Rosado is Executive Director of Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción.

As part of the Imagine Boston 2030 initiative, Mayor Martin J. Walsh recently published a recommended reading list designed to offer residents a chance to learn more about the history and background of the City and its neighborhoods, as well as to spark conversations about the opportunities and challenges ahead. The hope of this reading list is to inform the conversations around Boston’s master plan that will shape the future of our city.

We are delighted that one of the recommended books is “Villa Victoria: The Transformation of Social Capital in a Boston Barrio,” by Mario Luis Small.

In 1968, a group Puerto Rican activists stopped the urban renewal bulldozers from razing their neighborhood. They created IBA to develop the vibrant affordable housing community that we know today as Villa Victoria (Victory Village), located in Boston’s South End. Villa Victoria has become a national model for community development that combines affordable housing with education, economic, social and arts programs. The legacy of those brave Puerto Rican activists has been recognized for over four decades, and continues to be referenced and studied by scholars here and abroad.

Written in 2004, “Villa Victoria” serves as a local case study to examine how poverty affects social capital—the network of relationships among people who live in a particular area—and whether living in poorer neighborhoods results in negative effects. Through the sociological study of our neighborhood, Small sets out to show that, despite what other researchers argue, poor urban neighborhoods are not necessarily deprived of social capital. At Villa Victoria, our community of low-income residents is stronger than ever and continues to be active and engaged in the affairs of their neighborhood and the City. IBA’s award-winning arts and youth development programs have been instrumental in helping residents achieve success and in building their social capital. Our top priority at IBA is to create an environment in which residents don’t just live, but thrive together.

Imagine Boston 2030 brings together stakeholders and residents to determine the priorities that will guide the city in the future. The goal is to develop a vision for the physical and economic development of Boston that ensures equitable access to innovation, education, health, and arts and culture; and through these efforts increase the social capital and the quality of life for all Boston’s residents.

We are proud that Villa Victoria has been recognized as such an important part of our city’s history, to serve as a catalyst for conversation about the future of Boston.

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