Immigrant mural unveiled in Haverhill
Jessica Valeriani - Eagle Tribune
December 17th, 2018
HAVERHILL — Vibrant colors, patterns and images meticulously painted on the side of the Garibaldi Club depict the city’s immigrants from the past and present.
The colorful mural, revealed Sunday morning, features 144 immigrants from around the world who share a connection to Haverhill, said artist Alexander Golob, 24. They are surrounded by a series of square panels and accompanied by a large centerpiece of some of the city’s landmarks.
Children, friends, veterans and grandparents are among those displayed in the mural. Shown on panels of various blues and yellows, greens and reds, they share a common theme: all are immigrants.
The individuals in the mural were painted from photographs submitted by the community, Golob said.
The name of the mural, “Miles to Go Before We Sleep,” is from a famous poem written by Robert Frost, one of Golob’s favorite poets. The poem of inspiration is titled “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”
The passage of the poem Golob focused on reads: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.”
“The passage easily encapsulates hope, struggle, and the journey that describes the immigrant experience,” Golob said. “That stuck with me as the son of an immigrant and as a Jew.”
Work on the mural, which Golob referred to as an “important and ambitious project,” began a year and a half ago. It was originally presented to Haverhill’s City Council by current state representative and former Councilor Andy Vargas. Though first thought to be a crazy idea, it moved forward.
Golob said while Americans are living at a time when what it means to be a US citizen has created tension, that tension is what gave the project urgency.
He raised $30,000 for the mural, and even moved temporarily to Haverhill from Wellesley during the months he worked on the project.
With the support of the town and many sponsors, Golob was able to unveil his completed mural— covered by a large, blue tarp — to the hundreds of people in attendance Sunday.
“This is Haverhill,” Mayor James Fiorentini said of the artwork. “This mural tells the real history of Haverhill, which was built by immigrants.”
Fiorentini told the crowd the story of his grandfather, Augusto Fiorentini, an immigrant from Italy who worked in a shoe factory and as a meat cutter subsequent to his arrival at Ellis Island in 1907.
He shared the story of his grandfather’s hard work and resilience, ultimately becoming a successful Haverhill businessman through his store. He also helped found the Italian-American credit union.
Fiorentini’s grandfather is one of the 144 people in the mural.
“I’m sad he never lived to see me become mayor. Isn’t that the American dream?” Fiorentini said. “This is America. This is where we came from. We are a nation of immigrants.”
James Antonopoulos, an immigrant from Klepa, Greece, is also one of the many immigrants featured in the mural.
“It’s a great honor and a privilege to be up there,” he said, as his family posed alongside him for a photo while proudly holding the flag of Greece.
Newly elected U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan of the 3rd Congressional District, whose grandparents immigrated to the US from Portugal, spoke at the unveiling of the mural.
Trahan is the first person in her family to attend college, and on Jan. 1, she will take the oath of office and become the first Portuguese-American woman to serve in Congress.
“When I am in Washington, I will remember this mural,” she said.
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