“Pa’lante is the street form of the Spanish words “para adelante”. It means to constantly move ahead with one’s life and be optimistic about the future. I’ve heard it in a variety of contexts but it is most frequently used in an upbeat way when people meet and pass in the street. Sometimes it is accompanied by the gesture of a clenched fist making a positive forward motion.
When I began photographing the North End community in Springfield, Massachusetts right away I started hearing “pa’lante”. Over a period of time, I realized that it represented an attitude and response to life that I was seeing reflected in the lives and faces of many of the people I met and photographed. The word seem to convey and communicate an ever present and, underlying source of strength and optimism. This strength was visible even in those individuals who had lived a life of much hardship and strife.