Mauricio M. Gastón
The Mauricio Gastón Institute is named after Mauricio Miguel Gastón, a scholar, architect, urban planner, and community activist. Mauricio was born in Habana, Cuba on September 10, 1947. He emigrated with his family to the United States in 1960, shortly after the Cuban Revolution, and grew up in Virginia. He graduated from Princeton University magna cum laude with a degree in architecture; he completed post-graduate work at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and received a master’s degree in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981.
The decade’s struggles for civil rights, against the war in Vietnam, and for economic and social justice, as well as the Cuban Revolution itself, indelibly forged in Mauricio the will, energy, and passion to cast his life with the dispossessed. Shortly after graduating from Princeton University, he put this architectural and urban planning vocation on hold and instead took part directly in housing organizing and New York and New Jersey. In the 1970s, Boston’s community and anti-racist struggles actively engaged him, particularly those struggles that took place around housing issues in the city. He worked for Urban Planning Aid and Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción, and was a founding member of City Life/Vida Urbana in Jamaica Plain. His involvement in numerous local organizations afforded him a more organic understanding of the multiple dimensions of class, race, ethnicity, space, and design that exist in contemporary cities. It also affirmed a lifelong commitment to linking the empowerment of the disposed with the analysis of urban transformations.
As a key organizer and strategist for the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, he quickly and keenly appreciated how the struggles of Latinos in Boston were intimately connected to the struggles of development and self-determination in their countries of origin. His immersion in the daily lives of Boston’s communities of color bonded his firm belief that local struggles and international solidarity were the quintessential two sides of one coin. The 1970s and 1980s were years in which solidarity with Cuba and work with both progressive Cubans and the Cuban-American community occupied a central place in his life. In 1977, he took part in the first trip by Cuban Americans to Cuba with 55 other progressive Cubans from the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Miren Uriarte, his future wife, accompanied him on this trip.
In 1980, Mauricio became a faculty member in the Center for Community Planning at UMass Boston’s College of Public and Community Service. Mauricio began to do more systematic research on the relationship between the disinvestment which has scourged inner city communities for decades and the current wave of reinvestment and displacement. He was especially concerned with the Black and Latino communities’ insistence on gaining some control over the redevelopment process – a theme that was reflected in many of his writings. This groundbreaking analysis was a significant complement to the political clarity, analytical abilities, and leadership qualities he brought to Boston’s popular struggles.
Mauricio Gastón died on September 13, 1986, after a brief struggle with AIDS. He was survived by his wife, Miren, his son Pablo, and many family members and friends.