Seeing the line of cars blaring music from the Dominican Republic Sunday afternoon in Jamaica Plain took Frederick Gonzales back to the island he left three years ago. As each car went by, the crowds on Centre Street sidewalks were moving and swaying to a different beat.
Everyone danced. It was the city’s annual Dominican Festival of Boston parade.
“We’re born into this,” the 38-year-old Gonzales said in Spanish. “We take it with us. The culture, the folkloric music.”
Jamaica Plain was covered in Dominican flags on Sunday. They were streaming in the breeze behind children riding bicycles. They were painted on faces, printed on T-shirts, and draped across cars. A woman scolded a man for allowing the flag to drag on the ground, even for a moment.
In the parade, there were people in cultural costumes, dancers, and families waving to those watching.
If you ask Dominicans what they are most proud of in their culture, they tend to respond with a question of their own: When you’re a Dominican, what is there not to be proud of?
“We got the sauce, baby,” said Nataly Matos, 24. “We got it all. We got the music, we got the food. My mom always said you gotta be proud of your heritage, you gotta represent.”
Though she was born in the United States, Matos said she traveled back and forth between the Dominican Republic and Boston for most of her life.
Briana Mauriz, 18, has only been back to the island nation once. Yet, she’s proud of her country and happy to be in a city with a large Dominican population. Because of her parents, knowing her culture and where she came from defined her childhood.
“I love everything about being Dominican,” Mauriz said. “I love the food. Mofongo. Chuleta [pork chops] with arroz con habichuelas [rice and beans].”
Tony Reyes, 49, was grateful for another year of celebration. Since he lives on Centre Street, he tries to never miss a parade. He has lived in the United States more than 30 years, he said, and still honors his homeland.
“We’re a good community,” Reyes said. “We always stick together.”
Leonor de los Santos, 56, left the Dominican Republic when she was young and said Boston felt like home immediately because her mother did her best to raise them to be aware of their heritage. Now she’s doing the same thing with her family. It’s important to never forget your roots, she said.
“Our country is beautiful,” de los Santos said. “Our people are warm.”Cristela Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.