New England watches history unfold

At Santiago Hair Style in Chelsea, President Donald Trump’s voice mixed with the sound of buzzing electric razors and laughter. Because the television was tuned to Univision, a deeper voice in Spanish translated Trump’s promise to put “America first” and return power to the forgotten.

A few sighed. Others shot annoyed glances at the television. Some laughed.

“We’ve got to accept him,” the barber, Julio Genao, said in Spanish. “We have to give him an opportunity. We didn’t want him to be president, but now that he is, we hope he does a good job and stops being racist.”


There was no such ambivalence at 308 Lakeside, a restaurant in East Brookfield, where Doug LeBlanc watched the new president over a beer at the bar. LeBlanc clapped with pride as Trump vowed to make America wealthy strong, safe, proud — and yes, great again.

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“Look at that! There it is. See you later, folks,” saluted LeBlanc, a retired bar owner and teacher. “He didn’t go on and on. No bloviating like the other guys.”

Across New England, in barber shops, restaurants, and high schools, residents witnessed Trump’s remarkable ascension to the highest office in the nation with a mix of dread, indifference, and pleasure.

“I think he’ll do all right — straighten us out,” said Rocky Wright, a heavy equipment operator nursing a Bud Light at 308 Lakeside, located in one of the most pro-Trump towns in the state, about 15 miles west of Worcester. “I think he’s a good man — tells it the way it is.”

But James Boswell, who was having his beard and hair trimmed at the Mattapan’s Finest Barber shop on Blue Hill Avenue, said he would much rather listen to music than watch Trump’s inaugural, which was unfolding on a TV nearby.


“I don’t want to hear nothing he has to say,” said Boswell, a 42-year-old Dedham resident. “Everything he’s been saying since he’s been running, I don’t agree with.”

The revulsion was a far remove from the last two inaugurations, when Boswell said he was glued to the television to watch Barack Obama take the oath of office as the nation’s first black president, and then take the oath again for his second term.

Now “they let a crook in office,” said Andre Hope, a 48-year-old Dorchester resident who was waiting to have his hair cut at the shop. “He’s a crook in a suit.”

“It’s the Ku Klux Klan in office,” Peter Robinson, 48, of Randolph, shouted from across the shop while shaping up a man’s hairline.

Alicia Williams, 44, a stylist, urged the patrons to be open-minded.


“Let him put in the work,” she said. “He should still be respected.”

James Mitchell, the shop owner, who emerged from a back room to watch the inauguration, said he respects Trump because he is a businessman. “He listened to the people and what the people wanted,” Mitchell said.

He said he hopes Trump follows through on some of his campaign promises, like securing the border. “Build a damn wall!” he exclaimed. “You have the right to protect your country.”

Others in this heavily Democratic state were determined to ignore the dawning of the Trump era.

Myriam Rodriguez, who lives in New York, and her friend, Madison Wilson, from California, said they did not want to be anywhere near a television. So they sought refuge at a shrine to Democratic glory past, the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Dorchester. Both had initially hoped to be in Washington this week to witness the swearing-in of Hillary Clinton.

“It’s not that I want to hide my head in the sand,” said Wilson, who was wearing a shirt that read “A woman’s place is in the House and Senate.”

“But watching the inauguration almost makes it a reality,” Rodriguez said.

At Boston International Newcomers Academy, where most of the 400 students are immigrants, several wept as they watched Trump on TV as part of the school’s Diversity and Democracy Day.

“If I’m deported, where am I to go?” said Deina Da Costa Lopes, a 17-year-old Cape Verdean girl who hopes to become a doctor. “If I go back to my country, I won’t have the life I want.”

Carolyn De Jesus also wept during the speech, while her classmate, Yorsalem Robiel Brhane, put an arm around her to console her. “There are no words to describe how I feel,” De Jesus said.

At the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, in Roxbury, worshippers were trickling in for the Friday midday prayer service just as Trump was speaking.

In the center’s café, where a dozen or so people dined on jerk chicken and goat curry, Barbara Sahli watched the speech on her phone. As Trump finished, she took off her glasses and sighed.

“A lot of undercurrents in our country have been exposed, and I’m not sure where that’s going to go,” she said. “I don’t know that Donald Trump knows where it’s going to go.”

Farooq Mohsin, a high school senior from Woburn dressed in a leather jacket with shiny silver zippers, was feeling pleased about Trump’s swearing-in.

“I think I’m the only Trump supporter in my family,” said Mohsin, who was having tea and sweets with his mother and cousins. “I think of him as old-school.”

His mother, Wafaa Fathi, who was monitoring the inaugural on her phone, raised her eyebrows.

She did not share her son’s optimism, she said. Because Trump has promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, she said, she delayed a move to Houston rather than give up her Medicaid coverage at a risky time.

She said she could sense a distinct shift in the public’s views of Muslims since Trump’s campaign took off, and she is worried about how things will go for her community.

“Not all of us are terrorists,” she said dryly.

Cristela Guerra, Jan Ransom, Jim O’Sullivan, James Vaznis, Lisa Wangsness, Billy Baker, Joshua Miller, and Brian MacQuarrie of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Mina Corpuz contributed to this report.