By John Lynds
Last Friday under the Sumner Street overpass at the East Boston Greenway, 94-year-old Delia Trainor stood under her family’s portrait at the new mural that was unveiled as part of the City of Boston’s “To Immigrants with Love” series.
“That photo was taken 92 years ago,” explained Trainor. “It is a picture of my mother and my older brother Michael.”
Trainor explained that her family would take a picture once a year and send it to relatives back in Calabria, Italy.
“I was two-years-old in the photo,” she said. “When my son traveled back to Italy to meet our family there, they had all these old photos that my parents sent over the years.”
The mural, painted by the Mayor’s Mural Crew Director Heidi Schork and three assistants, was the second installment of murals dedicated to immigrants in Boston. It was spearheaded by the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement and follows the unveiling of another mural on the Paris Street side of Dr. Dental that featured immigrants Carmello Scire, whose grandson Steve Scire runs Carlo’s Catering and Veronica Robles of the Veronica Robles Cultural Center.
The new mural on the Greenway is a nod to the Italian ‘Nonna’ or Latino ‘Abuela’ culture that is prominent in Eastie.
Other notable residents or their grandmothers featured in the mural are former City Councilor Diane Modica depicted with her grandmother during her First Holy Communion and East Boston High School Swim Coach Dave Arinella’s grandmother, Giovannina Belmonte.
The unveiling of the mural Friday was in collaboration with the East Boston Greenway Council. Trainor, Modica and Arinella joined other mural subjects and family members like Diane Barsotti and told stories of their grandmothers and their ties to Eastie.
Rep. Adrian Madaro, along with Director of Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement Alejandra St. Guillen, President of East Boston Greenway Council Karen Maddalena, and Director of Mayor’s Mural Crew Heidi Schork also spoke about the process and the importance of the mural’s location.
“This mural is a wonderful tribute to the immigrant history of East Boston, and it highlights some wonderful family stories of immigrant families from different backgrounds,” said Maddalena. “The families were delighted to share the stories of their immigrant histories.”
The idea for the second Eastie mural came as Schork was painting the first mural on Paris Street. She noticed an abundance of elderly women in the area, and decided to paint a mural dedicated solely to Eastie grandmothers.
Local residents were asked to submit photos of their grandmothers for the project, and many of them made it into the mural’s design. Several art workshops were also held in Eastie earlier this fall, where residents brought in objects that belonged to their ancestors, such as rosary beads, jewelry, and old keys. Many of those objects informed the Mural Crews’ work as they were painting.
Barsotti submitted photos of her maternal and paternal grandmothers, and both are featured in the mural. Her maternal grandmother, whom her and her siblings referred to as “Nonni American”, because she was the first of the grandmothers to immigrate to the United States, is depicted wearing an apron and making pasta. Her paternal grandmother, “Nonni Italy” is depicted in a passport photo on the table.
“They would walk over this bridge almost every day, on their way to work, or shopping for groceries, or sometimes even visiting each other,” said Barsotti. “And they learned the streets of the little part of the city as they knew the streets of Italy. So when we found out about the mural being depicted we submitted the photographs, and we were just so honored to find out that they would be part of it. This is an amazing thing that the Mayor’s Office is doing, it’s just incredible.”
The mural is comprised of seven panels, and it measures 28 feet long by seven feet high. It depicts the history of immigration, from the perspective of Eastie grandmothers, from the turn of the 20th Century until today.
This campaign showcases how immigration has been and continues to be embedded in the fabric of our city,” said Director of the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement Alejandra St. Guillen, “The families and stories highlighted on this mural have an intrinsic commonality that people from all backgrounds and origins can connect with.”