Danilo Ramirez has seen Hyde Square come a long way in his 31
years as a Boston Police officer pounding the streets of Jamaica
As he sits at the back table at one of his favorite restaurants
in the neighborhood, El Oriental de Cuba, the 64-year-old patrolman
tells stories of the changes he’s witnessed.
He remembers the 1970s, when the problems were stolen cars, vandalism
and people hanging out after midnight on Friday and Saturday nights
outside the nightclub where the Bella Luna restaurant stands today.
He remembers when drugs started getting heavy in the 1980s. Every
corner from Hyde Square down to Jackson Square was owned by an
individual, Ramirez explains. One guy sold cocaine for $35 a bag.
Another sold it for $40 a bag – his was better stuff. And
in Mozart Park, they’d sell the “B-bag.” Baking
“The residents were afraid to come out at night because
the drugs were so intense,” he says. “It was wild – real,
Ramirez has seen a lot in 31 years.
He immigrated to the United States in 1961 from Cuba. He wears
a ring with a Cuban flag proudly on his left hand and points out
on the wall next to him a picture of the Cuban national bird.
“If you put him in a cage he will die,” he says, and
snaps his fingers. “He was born to be free.”
He moved to Boston in 1964 where he became a police officer in
the early 1970s. When he first came on the job he was one of very
few Hispanic police officers, he says.
Ramirez and the others who he occasionally waves over to join
the conversation agree the community has changed for the better.
“In the last 30 years, Jamaica Plain has improved 100 percent,” Ramirez
He credits the upswing in the community to the hard work of local
residents and some aggressive patrolling by the Boston Police.
In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s the Boston Police
worked closely with U.S. Immigration officials to deport illegal
aliens involved in the drug trade.
Ramirez says “all the glory” should go to the residents
in the community, who actively participate in crime watches and
work hard at quality of life issues such as neighborhood beautification
and property upkeep. He sings praises of a few “very unselfish
persons” in the community such as Michael Reiskind, a co-chair
on the Boston Police District E-13 (Jamaica Plain) Quality of Life
The neighborhood’s diverse residents live together without
problems, Ramirez says. People from Somalia, China, the Dominican
Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rica, and Haiti call the neighborhood
“There is not a single tone of racism,” he says. “People
are very friendly.”
Businesses such as El Oriental de Cuba have flourished. The restaurant,
which opened in 1992, doubled in size a few years ago to meet the
demand. Ramirez points out the different floor tiles marking the
The biggest problems in the community today are still drugs and
robberies – car thefts and bag snatchings, Ramirez says. “I
owe that to the lack of application of law by the judicial system,” he
says. “I arrested a guy three different times in one day
While the community may be prospering, at the end of the conversation
Ramirez still insists on driving this visitor the few blocks to
the T-station instead of letting her walk alone down Centre Street,
even though at 6 p.m. it is still daylight.