The vibrant community of Little Village has been brought to life with Mexican pride as Mexico’s Independence Day celebrations are in full swing. Almost 84% of the population of Little Village is Latino or Hispanic.
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In previous years, Alberto Gomez and his mother sold merchandise on 26th Street from about a week before the celebrations started. Gomez says that despite the parade being canceled, people are stepping out and interacting with the community.
âI am proud of my roots and where I come from. That’s what makes her beautiful and I’m proud of my culture, âsaid Alberto Gomez in Spanish. âMy pride is that the majority of my employees come to work and look for a better future for our families. ”
Over the years, the residents of Little Village have faced many challenges, from fighting to shut down two power plants, to demanding resources and programs to uplift and support the community.
“Little Village has a lot of immigrants who have no papers, and the government is not helping them, so we have found a way to help the community,” said Jorge Rivera, president of the community. Ministry of Evangelization to the Community.
Rivera has partnered with Chicago District 10 Police Department to distribute hundreds of boxes of food to residents of the neighborhood.
The defense of immigrants in this community is also Small village community council, who lobbied for non-citizens will be able to vote in Illinois school board elections.
“This is important because the student body of the CPS is predominantly Latino, Spanish-speaking”, Baltazar Enriquez, president of the Council. âIf we don’t have a place at the table, then it’s not fair because then they don’t want to talk about our problems, our people, our historyâ¦ we’re already tired of being ignored. “
Video: Watch our full interview with Baltazar Enriquez
Meanwhile, Kimberly Wasserman, executive director of the Small village environmental justice organization has dedicated 20 years of his life to championing a healthier community. And now, after years of preparation, an approximately 1.3 acre community farm is coming to La Villita Park.
âOver the next two Saturdays, community members will be coming here to help design what part of the farm should look like. We already know that people want orchards, they want apple trees, they want agriculture lessons to learn how to grow food on the farm and at home and we are also going to have a workers’ cooperative that will allow people to get together. unite to sell their products on the open market.
Mike Torres, Mentorship Coordinator at New Chicagoland living centers, has also spent many years mentoring middle and high school students through sport. He says sports have served to bridge a gap within Little Village.
âSport can provide that feeling of resilience, of persistence, of helping you do what you need to do to do something,â Torres said. âSport is an easy bridge between differences of opinion or belief. Many of our young people are there to play. Even being from different cultures and then understanding, âOh, this person is like me. “
Video: Watch our full interview with Mike Torres
A few steps from the stands in La Villita Park the discount mall, a place that has been a staple in the community for decades. A mall that has given hundreds of Mexican immigrants the opportunity to start a business.
It has been over a year since Novak construction has taken over the plaza and the vendors say they still have no idea what the business has planned for the mall. One of their biggest concerns is displacement.
âThis place is part of our culture, and they will be part of our hearts because people who come here to visit are always amazed because places like this are rare,â said Bendito Arroyo, a salesperson at the mall. Discount, in Spanish.
Kocoy Malagon has searched for answers, but says Novak Construction has not responded to any of their requests. Last year, the company released a statement that it was working to better understand the market and the neighborhood and that there were no concrete plans yet.
âI want to stay here, and I agree this building is old and in need of renovations and yes Novak is the owner and we have to pay rent. We have no problem with that and we want to be part of the process, âsaid Malagon.
As this community celebrates Mexican Independence Day, Wasserman believes the occasion – marking Mexico’s declaration of independence from Spain – resonates with the struggles facing the neighborhood.
âUnfortunately, it seems like all we do is fight, but we are fighting for a better neighborhood and we are fighting to stay in this city and this neighborhood that we love. I hope one day we will stop fighting, but until then we will continue to fight like hell, âsaid Kimberly Wasserman.
Novak Construction declined WTTW’s request for comment. Office of Alderman Cardenas said he contacted Novak for updates on the mall and said that once they have new information they will schedule a meeting with the community.
Community Report Series
âChicago Tonightâ Expands Community Reporting. We take to the streets to speak with your neighbors, local businesses, agencies and leaders about COVID-19, the economy, racial justice, education and more. Find out where we’ve been and what we’ve learned using the map below. Or select a community using the drop-down menu. Points in Red represent our COVID-19 Across Chicago series; blue marks our “Chicago Tonight” series in Your Neighborhood.