I've been asked for my thoughts on renaming a portion of Centre Street in Jamaica Plain to Avenue de las Americas. I should note that I'm on vacation and away from my library, so some of the dates I use below may be a bit off. I don't mind renaming streets (and getting rid of a little more of Centre Street in JP to lessen confusion with the other Centre Streets in Boston might be a good thing) but the proposed name, Avenue de las Americas, strikes me as being all wrong.
First and foremost, Boston is a city of streets--for the first two hundred years or so of Boston's history there weren't avenues--just streets, lanes, paths, alleys, passages, etc. The major streets in Boston today graced with the surname "Avenue" are primarily old highways/toll roads/turnpikes which were created very early in the 19th century, like Dorchester Avenue, Blue Hill Avenue; a major street running through a development, like Commonwealth Avenue (all of the other Back Bay Streets in the grid are "streets"); or are a product of late 19th century planning, like Huntington Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue, and Avenue Louis Pasteur.
This isn't to say that there weren't streets named "Avenue" in the mid-19th century in Dorchester and Roxbury--Savin Hill Avenue is an example--just that they were far outnumbered by "Streets". "Avenue" begins to become more popular in Boston about the same time as "Road", which starts to appear in fashionable Brighton neighborhoods in the late 19th century. Jones Hill in Dorchester, which began to be subdivided in the 1870s, has Sawyer Avenue, Everett Avenue, Cushing Avenue, and Downer Avenue. True antiquarians will note that "road" appears in Dorchester in the 17th Century, with the Upper (Washington Street) Road and Lower (Adams Street) Road. In other words, "Avenue" just doesn't sound right when applied to Centre Street, a name which indicates its importance as a colonial road.
Avenue of the Arts, which has been applied to Huntington Avenue makes sense, given both the cultural institutions along it and width of the street--it feels like an avenue, or even a boulevard, a word mostly absent from Boston, with Seaport Boulevard being a noteworthy exception. On the other hand, "Avenue de las Americas" gives one certain expectations of grandeur which Centre Street can't hope to fulfill. I'm all for a statue of Simon Bolivar, who deserves to be more widely known, and I think a Park de las Americas is a great idea.
Perhaps there is another Spanish word that conveys the sense of a marketplace/community meeting place/neighborhood which would sound more lively than Avenue De Las Americas, which makes me think of New York City. Las Ramblas in Barcelona gives me a sense of action and activity and life--what word describes the neighborhood that is the pulse of Boston's Latin community? Why not rename Hyde and Jackson Squares, instead of the street connecting them?
Update: I've seen it written in a couple of places that I think it is a bad idea to rename Centre Street. To be clear: I don't think renaming is a bad idea. I think incorporating "Avenue" into the new name is a bad idea, for the reasons I've mentioned above.