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Old traditions, new residents

East Boston has been home to immigrants from Europe, Asia, and, most recently, Central and South America. The annual Italia Unita Festival, which takes place in East Boston, is relatively new, emerging just as the Italian immigrant influence in the neighborhood is waning. Each shift in demographics brings tensions but also transforming moments.

July's long days, which offered warm sunlight into the early evening, inspired this picture. But there was something else that caught my eye. The people in the foreground represent the Spanish-speaking newcomers. The man in the middle stands alone in his Italia T-shirt, celebrating the country's World Cup victory. But everyone is melding into the American urban landscape, winning stuffed animals for their loved ones and taking in the joys of this summer night.

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As one who grew up in "Eastie," I appreciate the celebration of Italian tradition even as I welcome the Latin community. In fact, their culture is not unlike the one I grew up with. Carnivale has always been the summer reward for the community's hard-working residents. On this night, the carnivals of my youth come back to me in a vivid moment. In reality, Italia Unita is about continuity – passing the neighborhood's traditions on to the newest Americans.


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