In a modest room in the Consulate of El Salvador in East Boston, dozens of people gathered Sunday afternoon to celebrate the life and legacy of the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, with speeches, photographs, and videos.
“We had to do something because of his passing,” said Jorge Marin, a coordinator for the group Boston Bolivarianos. “And to inform the American public of what he stands for. Fight back the misconceptions.”
A photograph of Chávez was projected onto a screen, and all eyes were fixed forward as men and women took to the microphone and shared their stories — mostly in Spanish — about the Venezuelan leader who inspired and influenced people worldwide.
Chávez, who died of cancer last Tuesday in Caracas, at age 58, was a polarizing figure who made enemies as well as admirers. But at the Sunday afternoon gathering, despite heavy winter garb, many had found ways to add a splash of red to their attire in his honor. Some wore red hats, shirts, and socks; one woman sported a replica of his signature red army beret and clutched a Chávez doll dressed in a military uniform as she listened to the speeches.
Just as Chávez’s funeral drew leaders from more than 55 countries, a mix of Venezuelans, Americans, Latinos, and even some people from India spoke about what Chávez meant to them and to their native countries.
The crowd laughed and cried along with the speakers, capturing the stories on camera or video, while coordinators from the Boston Bolivarianos projected videos of Chávez, including one showing him singing Venezuela’s national anthem.
Those who knew the words sang along just louder than a murmur, a few lifted their left fists toward the ceiling. “¡Chávez vive!” they chanted in the poster-filled room, the images capturing Chávez’s political career and support for Chavez’s movements, including the Bolivarian Revolution and ALBA, or the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas.
“We always supported the revolution,” Marin said.
Sarah N. Mattero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.