While we are all trying to live in this ‘new normal’ amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the holiday season can become a bit tricky for many yearning to be with loved ones but anxious about the risks involved.
East Boston experienced a 60 percent spike in its weekly COVID positive test rate in the wake of the Thanksgiving holiday and health officials have cautioned that vaccinated and unvaccinated people mingling indoors and maskless during holidays is going to be a recipe for disaster for the foreseeable future.
However, the Veronica Robles Cultural Center (VRCC) teamed up on Saturday with the Whittier Street Health Center to kick off the holiday season right by getting as many people vaccinated as possible.
On Saturday the Cultural Center and Whittier Street Health Center hosted a COVID-19 vaccine clinic. The clinic was multicultural and multilingual with artistic and cultural activities for children. Veronica Robles said over 100 people attended the event and 97, including 15 children, were administered vaccines by Whittier Street Health Center staff.
“This is an outstanding example of how the Latino and immigrant community takes care of each other by getting the vaccine and creating community,” said Robles, VROCC founding director. “We are grateful to our community partners–Lawyers for Civil Right, Greater Boston Latino Network, Whittier Street Health Center, Boston Public Health Commission – Vaccine Equity, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, Neigborways Design, Boston Housing Authority, Boston Planning & Development Agency, New England Foundation for the Arts for all their support.”
The day included an art activation entitled, “The Light We Carry”, facilitated by artist in residency Ruth Kathyn. There was a storytelling workshop by a young storyteller Daniel Aaron Arias.
Also, Juan Carlos Ruiz from Venezuela, Omar Clavijo from Bolivia and the VRCC Mariachi Youth sang villancicos, or spanish carols. Participants also enjoyed delicious Elotes or Mexican Street Corn during the event.
“Nearly all of the people who were vaccinated reported serious barriers to vaccination at other sites, particularly at pharmacies, where appointment slots have been completely exhausted and unavailable,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, lawyers for CIvil Rights Executive Director. “They also reported language barriers at other sites. So it was clear that the bilingual community-based site using a “walk-in” model was highly successful. The demand for vaccination was extraordinarily high. The event was scheduled from noon to 3 pm, but the staff worked significant overtime with vaccinations taking place until 6 pm.”
The event concluded with Robles writing the name of Eastie artist Sury Chavez on the monarch butterfly mural she created with some youth from the community that is outside the VRCC’s building on Meridian Street.
“The subject of the mural is the monarch butterfly honoring our neighbors who have migrated from other countries,” explained Robles. “Monarch butterflies are a symbol of constant transformation, and perseverance reflected in the thousands of kilometers they travel from Canada passing through the United States to their final destination, the Mexican states of Michoacan and Estado de Mexico.”
The poet Nelson Marquez then shared his poem “Monarch Butterfly” created for the occasion.