WBEZ | Little Village http://www.wbez.org/tags/little-village Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Former gang member describes transformation http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/former-gang-member-describes-transformation-110565 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/sc_0.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Carlos Kasper, 26, has already learned more about himself than most people ever do. Kasper grew up in Little Village and was raised by his step-dad and his mom &ndash; who struggled to make ends meet. &ldquo;We grew up in the gang culture,&rdquo; Kasper said in a recent StoryCorps interview. &ldquo;[We would] smoke a lot of weed, listen to a lot of gangster rap, hang out with the guys from the block.&rdquo;</p><p>As a kid he had a lot of pent-up anger and frustration. But his brother and cousins kept him out of the gangs&hellip;for a while, at least.</p><p>There was a period towards the end of high school, when Kasper learned community organizing techniques. But he soon became disillusioned with the non-profit world when he realized their focus was on eradicating gangbangers in Little Village.&nbsp; &ldquo;I took it very personal,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>&ldquo;Because a lot of my family is gangbangers. And I knew them and they weren&rsquo;t these savages or these evil people. They&rsquo;re just regular people who just chose another lifestyle.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Gangbangers are people&rsquo;s sons, people&rsquo;s brothers, people&rsquo;s cousins, people&rsquo;s fathers,&rdquo; he continued.</p><p>&ldquo;These [community organizer] people are acting like they&rsquo;re aliens, murderers, running around wildly.&rdquo;</p><p>Little by little, he transitioned into gang life. He appreciated the sense of brotherhood that he got as a gang member and the looks he&rsquo;d get from people who were intimidated by him.</p><p>Then he got locked up for two months in the county jail. &ldquo;I had all these problems that I didn&rsquo;t let out,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But I didn&rsquo;t take care of the root base of my deep personal issues.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m glad I got locked up,&rdquo; Kasper said. &ldquo;There was just so much time to think, so much time for reflection, so much time for meditation, exercise. And when I came out, I came out a whole different person.&rdquo;</p><p>When he got out, he refused to take orders from some gang leaders. He still valued his fellow gang members and their ideals, but he wanted to make a change for himself.</p><p>In order to get out of the gang, he agreed to a &ldquo;violation,&rdquo; which meant that he was beat up from head to toe, for three minutes by his fellow gang members, two at a time, each guy taking five to ten seconds. By the end of it, his bones were aching and he couldn&rsquo;t lift his arms above his shoulders.</p><p>He believes he ended things on good terms with the gang. &ldquo;I feel really strong being able to step in front of them without insulting them and telling them that they were my brothers and I love them, but I can&rsquo;t do these things anymore because my life had changed.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I was real with them. I kept it genuine. And I really loved them and I showed them that.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/6250422&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 25 Jul 2014 14:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/former-gang-member-describes-transformation-110565 Swept from their homes, Chicago's Latinos built new community http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/swept-their-homes-chicagos-latinos-built-new-community-110538 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="300" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/45010154&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Chicago is famous for its ethnic neighborhoods. And there&rsquo;s a funny thing about them. A neighborhood&rsquo;s identity can seem like it has been in place <em>forever</em>, even when big ethnic shifts took place just one or two generations ago. This is how many Chicagoans see Pilsen and Little Village, a corridor with the biggest concentration of Latinos in the Midwest. These neighborhoods have so much vitality &mdash; dense housing, bustling commercial strips, packed playgrounds &mdash; that it seems like Latinos must have been there for ages. A curious citizen named <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/swept-their-homes-chicagos-latinos-built-new-community-110538#CM">CM! Winters-Palacio</a> was wondering how long, so she asked us:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Why are Latinos concentrated in the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods? When did it happen?</em></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LUCY%20FINAL.jpg" style="float: right; height: 328px; width: 400px;" title="Near West Side resident Rosie Valtierra holds her goddaughter there on the day of her baptism in the mid-1950s. City Hall has embarked on massive construction projects that will raze much of the area. Valtierra and many other displaced Latinos will end up in Pilsen. (Photo courtesy of Rosemarie Sierra)" />We answered the <em>when</em> part of the question just by looking at census numbers: Pilsen did not become mostly Latino until the 1960s; Little Village didn&rsquo;t until the 1970s. Answering <em>why</em> those changes happened took a little more work. We interviewed experts, searched newspaper archives, pounded Pilsen&rsquo;s pavement and tracked down some of the neighborhood&rsquo;s first Latino residents. In our audio story (above), Lucy Gutiérrez, 87, tells us about bringing her family to Pilsen when the place was still populated mainly by Central and Eastern European descendants &mdash; including the Bohemians whose forebears named it after Plzeň, a city in what is now the Czech Republic. Our research also led to some text snapshots from the history. The snapshots begin on Chicago&rsquo;s Near West Side, which included the city&rsquo;s largest Latino enclave just a few decades ago.</p><p><strong><span style="font-size:22px;">In old neighborhood, the beginning of the end</span></strong></p><p><strong>FEBRUARY 15, 1949</strong>: A Chicago housing official complains about residents refusing to leave a 14-block stretch from Desplaines to Paulina streets to make way for a new superhighway along Chicago&rsquo;s Congress Street. The official, Detlef E. Mackelmann, says some would not go &ldquo;until the buildings next door were being torn down.&rdquo; The highway&rsquo;s first section, completed in 1955, will displace thousands of people. It will be among several massive construction projects that will raze much of the Near West Side, including a Mexican neighborhood that dates back to the 1920s. The projects will include three expressways, a university campus and public-housing developments. Some of those Mexicans will move to Pilsen, a neighborhood just south. They will form the nucleus of what will become a much bigger Latino community. The Congress highway, for its part, will eventually be named the Eisenhower Expressway.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 11px;"><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/swept-their-homes-chicagos-latinos-built-new-community-110538#sources">1</a></strong></span></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1%20TAYLOR%20STREET%20FINAL.jpg" style="margin-top: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1%20TAYLOR%20STREET%20PIES%20FINAL.jpg" style="margin-left: 0px; margin-right: 0px;" title="(WBEZ illustrations by Erik Nelson Rodriguez)" /></div></div><p><br /><strong><span style="font-size:22px;">White exodus from Pilsen makes room for newcomers</span></strong></p><p><strong>OCTOBER 18, 1953</strong>: St. Procopius, a 72-year-old Czech parish in Pilsen, rededicates its school with a Sunday dinner. The meal includes turkey, dumplings, sauerkraut, rye bread and kolacky. The music includes the Czech anthem &quot;Kde domov můj?&quot; and an Antonín Dvořák composition. Although the school has begun to enroll some of Pilsen&rsquo;s first Latino children, today&rsquo;s program includes no hint of their cultures. And Rev. Peter Mizera, the St. Procopius priest, has been complaining to the archdiocese about &ldquo;the recent infiltration of the Mexicans.&rdquo; But Pilsen&rsquo;s white population is declining and growing older as young families head to suburbs. St. Procopius and other parishes will have to open their doors to Latinos. By 1955, six Pilsen parochial schools will be enrolling Mexican children. Over the next two decades, several Pilsen parishes will retool themselves, sending priests to learn Spanish in Mexico, building altars and shrines to the Virgin of Guadalupe, even bringing mariachi music into masses. Some other parishes, slow to adapt, will close.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 11px;"><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/swept-their-homes-chicagos-latinos-built-new-community-110538#sources">2</a></strong></span></p><p><strong><span style="font-size:22px;">Campus construction pushes more Latinos into Pilsen</span></strong></p><p><strong>MARCH 19, 1961</strong>: Led by a mariachi band, hundreds of Mexican protesters march from St. Francis of Assisi Church and tie up Near West Side traffic. The protesters slam a City Hall plan to replace their neighborhood with a University of Illinois campus. They blame Mayor Richard J. Daley and shout, &ldquo;Down with Daley,&rdquo; &ldquo;Daley sold us out&rdquo; and &ldquo;Respeten nuestros hogares&rdquo; (Respect our homes). The protest is part of a much larger effort to derail the university plan. Italians, the area&rsquo;s biggest ethnic group, are leading the resistance but Mexicans are also visible. Roughly 4,800 of them live in the census tracts the city wants the university to take over. The resistance will fail. On May 10, the City Council will designate 106 acres for the campus. Some of the Mexicans will move a few blocks west, but campus expansions will displace them again. Many will end up in Pilsen. The University of Illinois Chicago Circle Campus, meanwhile, will open in 1965.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 11px;"><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/swept-their-homes-chicagos-latinos-built-new-community-110538#sources">3</a></strong></span></p><p><strong><span style="font-size:22px;">Chicano movement builds neighborhood&rsquo;s new identity</span></strong></p><p><strong>APRIL 24, 1969</strong>: More than 100 residents of Chicago&rsquo;s Pilsen neighborhood gather for a public meeting of the Latin American Alliance for Social Advancement, known by its Spanish acronym, ALAS. The meeting occurs at Howell House, a community center focused for decades on Czech immigrants. At the meeting, ALAS endorses Arthur Vázquez to lead Howell House; he will be its first Mexican-American director. The meeting also develops strategies to improve Pilsen schools, expose police brutality and publicize a national grape boycott. The organizing reflects two major changes in Pilsen. First, Mexicans have been pouring into the neighborhood for two decades. Along with the arrivals from the Near West Side, many have come from South Texas or various parts of Mexico. A smaller Latino group in Pilsen has roots in Puerto Rico. The 1970 census will record the neighborhood&rsquo;s first Latino majority. The other big change is the rise of the Chicano civil-rights movement. Reflecting that change, Howell House will get a new name: Casa Aztlán. <span style="font-size: 11px;"><b><u>4</u></b></span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2%20MEETING%20TONIGHT%20FINAL.jpg" title="" /></p><p><strong style="font-size: 22px;">Latino community expands west to Little Village</strong></p><p><strong>OCTOBER 30, 1979</strong>: At the urging of Latinos and veterans, the Chicago Park District board agrees to a proposed memorial plaza honoring Manuel Pérez Jr., a World War II hero killed by enemy fire at age 22 and posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Pérez grew up on the city&rsquo;s Near West Side long before his neighborhood was razed and before many of its Mexican residents moved to Pilsen. The city will build the plaza in 1980 in Little Village, a Southwest Side neighborhood known as the &ldquo;Mexican suburb&rdquo; because of its proximity to Pilsen, its larger homes, and its fast-growing Latino population. Next year&rsquo;s census will show that Latinos constitute the majority of Little Village residents. The Pilsen and Little Village corridor now has the largest concentration of Latinos in the Midwest.&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 11px;"><b><u>5</u></b></span><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/3%20PLAZA%20FINAL.jpg" title="" /></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Neighborhoods help put Latino in Congress</strong></span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/web%20PilsenFoundGutierrez1crop_0.jpg" style="height: 242px; width: 190px; float: left;" title="" /><strong>MARCH 17, 1992</strong>: In a Democratic primary election for U.S. House, Chicago Ald. Luis V. Gutiérrez (26th Ward) easily defeats his strongest challenger, Juan Soliz. A 1990 court order required a Chicago district with a Latino majority. Shaped like an earmuff, the district covers the Pilsen-Little Village corridor and Puerto Rican neighborhoods on the Northwest Side. Gutiérrez, who was an ally of the late Mayor Harold Washington, has Mayor Richard M. Daley&rsquo;s backing in the Congressional race. After the general election, Gutiérrez will become the first Midwest Latino in the House. Although his family is from Puerto Rico, whose residents are born with U.S. citizenship, Gutiérrez will champion immigrant political causes and maintain strong support in Pilsen and Little Village. <span style="font-size: 11px;"><b><u>6</u></b></span></p><p><strong><span style="font-size:22px;">Pilsen remains Latino, but for how long?</span></strong></p><p><strong>MAY 20, 1997</strong>: In the name of job creation, Ald. Danny Solis (25th) leads a rally for a plan that would extend the University of Illinois at Chicago southward to the edge of Pilsen. The Daley administration, meanwhile, is planning a tax-increment financing district to boost industry in Pilsen. Some residents are linking those efforts to gentrification on the neighborhood&rsquo;s east end. Those residents say the changes are threatening Pilsen&rsquo;s Mexican-American character and pushing rents and property taxes too high. This summer, artists led by Hector Duarte (<span style="font-size: 11px;"><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/swept-their-homes-chicagos-latinos-built-new-community-110538#sources">7</a></strong></span>) will transform an outdoor wall at 1805 S. Bishop St. into a colorful mural called &ldquo;Stop Gentrification in Pilsen.&rdquo;&nbsp;The mural will depict United Farm Workers co-founder César Chávez and Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata flanking a multigenerational Pilsen family, a pushcart vendor and anti-gentrification protesters. Such efforts will not stop affluent newcomers from moving into Pilsen but, for years to come, the neighborhood will remain the cultural heart of the Chicago area&rsquo;s Mexican-American community. <span style="font-size:11px;"><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/swept-their-homes-chicagos-latinos-built-new-community-110538#sources">8</a></strong></span></p><p style="margin:0in;margin-bottom:.0001pt"><span style="color:red"><o:p></o:p></span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/4%20MURAL%20FINAL.jpg" title="" /></p><p><strong><span style="font-size:22px;"><a name="CM"></a>Our question comes from: CM! Winters-Palacio</span></strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cm winters FINAL.jpg" style="height: 194px; width: 185px; float: left;" title="" />African-Americans in Chicago cannot help but look at the city&rsquo;s most heavily Latino neighborhoods with some envy, according to WBEZ listener CM! Winters-Palacio, who lives in Auburn Gresham, a South Side neighborhood. &ldquo;If you drive through Little Village or Pilsen, they&rsquo;re thriving with little local stores,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;When you go on the South Side, it&rsquo;s a totally different experience.&rdquo;</p><p>Winters-Palacio chairs Malcolm X College&rsquo;s library department and tells us her interests include community development and racial segregation. So what does she think of our answer to her question? Pilsen&rsquo;s Latino identity is &ldquo;relatively new,&rdquo; Winters-Palacio says. &ldquo;It helps dispel one of the myths.&rdquo; Namely, that a strong community must have long historical roots.<a id="sources"> </a>Winters-Palacio says Pilsen and Little Village provide hope for her part of town.</p><p><strong><span style="font-size:22px;">Notes</span></strong></p><p><strong>1.</strong> Lilia Fernández, <em>Brown in the Windy City: Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in Postwar Chicago</em> (University of Chicago Press, 2012). &ldquo;City&rsquo;s &lsquo;DPs&rsquo; sit tight in path of big projects: Evacuation notices just a &lsquo;wolf cry&rsquo; to them,&rdquo; <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em> (February 16, 1949). <strong>2.</strong> Deborah Kanter, &ldquo;Making Mexican Parishes: Ethnic Succession in Chicago Churches, 1947-1977,&rdquo; <em>U.S. Catholic Historian, Volume 301:1</em> (Catholic University of America Press, 2012).&nbsp;<strong>3.</strong>&nbsp;&ldquo;Protest rally today against U. of I. campus,&rdquo; <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em> (March 20, 1961). &ldquo;Council OKs W. Side U. of I. site, 41 to 3: Crowd in gallery boos action, vows fight,&rdquo; <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em> (May 11, 1961). Fernández, op. cit. <strong>4.</strong>&nbsp;Fernández, op. cit. Administrative History, Bethlehem Howell Neighborhood Center collection, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Illinois at Chicago. <strong>5.</strong>&nbsp;&ldquo;New post of Legion honors Mexican-American hero slain on Luzon,&rdquo; <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em> (June 30, 1946). &ldquo;Slain vet who killed 75 Japs is honored in memorial service,&rdquo; <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em> (February 14, 1949). &ldquo;Ordinance requesting the City of Chicago to convey the Manuel Pérez Jr. Plaza to the Chicago Park District,&rdquo; <em>Journal of the Proceedings of the Board of Commissioners of the Chicago Park District, </em>1979-1980. <strong>6.</strong> John Kass, &ldquo;Gutiérrez picks up Daley&rsquo;s backing for Congress,&rdquo; <em>Chicago Tribune</em> (December 10, 1991). Lou Ortiz, &ldquo;Gutiérrez coasts toward big win in Hispanic district race,&rdquo; <em>Chicago Sun-Times</em> (March 18, 1992). <strong>7.</strong>&nbsp;Editor&#39;s Note: Duarte is married to WBEZ reporter Linda Lutton. <strong>8.</strong> Gary Marx, &ldquo;Opposition brewing to UIC expansion; proposal may drive out the poor, foes say,&rdquo; <em>Chicago Tribune</em> (March 12, 1997). Ernest Tucker, &ldquo;Latinos urge UIC to move forward with expansion,&rdquo; <em>Chicago Sun-Times</em> (May 21, 1997). Teresa Puente, &ldquo;Pilsen fears upscale push may shove many out,&rdquo; <em>Chicago Tribune</em> (November 4, 1997).</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a>&nbsp;is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1" target="_blank">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" target="_blank">@WBEZoutloud</a>. <a href="http://twitter.com/ero_nel" target="_blank">Erik Nelson Rodrigue</a><a href="http://twitter.com/ero_nel" target="_blank">z</a>&nbsp;is an&nbsp;illustrator and graphic designer in Chicago.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/swept-their-homes-chicagos-latinos-built-new-community-110538 Chicago man loses 200 pounds to give back to Little Village http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/chicago-man-loses-200-pounds-give-back-little-village-109972 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/storycorps.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Miguel Blancarte, Jr. is a proud resident of Chicago&#39;s Little Village neighborhood. A first generation college graduate from Brown University, he now works at a law firm specializing in immigration.</p><p>Miguel says the one thing he&rsquo;s always struggled with is his weight. It wasn&rsquo;t until his doctor warned him that he wouldn&rsquo;t live past his mid-40s that he knew something had to change:</p><p>&ldquo;Honestly the thought of losing anything more than 30 pounds was just not a reality to me,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But Miguel managed to lose not just 30, but 200 pounds in all. He then ran his first ever 5k race to to raise money for Enlace, the local community center that provides health and social services in Little Village.</p><p>To hear how he lost all that weight so he could give back to his community, check out the audio above.</p><p><em>Meredith Zielke is a WBEZ producer.</em><br />&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F6250422" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 16:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/chicago-man-loses-200-pounds-give-back-little-village-109972 Fit for a princess http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/fit-princess-109750 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/140221_Quinces1.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Much like a wedding, it begins with a beautiful dress. At Andrea&rsquo;s Bridal in Little Village, only three bridal gowns are on display. But there are dozens of dresses, in every color and color combination imaginable, for girls awaiting quinceañera parties&mdash;a &ldquo;sweet fifteen&rdquo; celebrated in many Latino cultures.</p><p>The dresses all have the same silhouette: a small bodice on top that sits on a huge, ruffled, layered bottom, supported by a large hoop skirt. Like something you&rsquo;d see in &ldquo;Gone with the Wind.&rdquo;</p><p>Rocio Aguayo is the director of <em>Quinceanera </em>magazine. She&rsquo;s also staging one of two quinceañera expos taking place this weekend in the Chicago suburbs. Her event is in Hickory Hills, expected to draw around 2,500.</p><p>&ldquo;The quinceañera is basically the coming out, presenting of a young girl to society,&rdquo; Aguayo said. &ldquo;The main idea is she&rsquo;s leaving her childhood and she&rsquo;s entering into womanhood.&rdquo;</p><p>Years ago, a ceremony would have included a dress, professional photography and a blessing at a mass. Maybe a small party.</p><p>Today what is spent on a quinces could easily rival a wedding. Aguayo says the average cost of a quinceañera is between $15,000 and $18,000.</p><p>Families will pay for a banquet hall, dinner, a multi-tiered cake, a big dress, photography. And now choreography. Girls have courts, much like bridesmaids and groomsmen. The girls are damas. The guys chambelanes. And they all have to know how to waltz.</p><p>Lily Garcia runs Magic Movements dance company. She provides choreography lessons for a basic waltz. Lily also has backup male dancers, for girls who do not have chambelanes. A basic waltz package starts at $800. The deluxe package featuring dancers is $2,200.</p><p>&ldquo;Sometimes I cry because it&rsquo;s so pretty,&rdquo; Garcia said. &ldquo;I would not like to take that away because they financially can&rsquo;t afford it. So we do our best to accommodate them.&rdquo;</p><p>She may have to accommodate Laura Delgado, who is on a tight budget. Her daughter Joselyn celebrates her quinces in July. Their limit is $5,000, for the whole event.</p><p>&ldquo;You try to tell your children it might be better to open a bank account with that money,&rdquo; Laura said.</p><p>Joselyn disagrees.</p><p>&ldquo;I want the party,&rdquo; she said with a smile.</p><p>But some believe the giant events overshadow the basics of the tradition, which include a teen receiving a special blessing at a mass. Father Patrick Casey is one of those people. He performs quinceañera masses, but wonders why he bothers.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve had masses where the kids have been very very intense and participating.&nbsp; And then other kids that are absolutely bored,&rdquo; Casey said. &ldquo;Frankly, I would get rid of the quinceañera. But I don&rsquo;t think we can do that because the cultural element of the people.&rdquo;</p><p>While a party may exclude religious components, for Latino families a quinceañera is about passing on a festive tradition. They share the cost with so-called &ldquo;sponsors,&rdquo; a grandmother or an aunt who will pay for a dress, invitations, a cake or other items.</p><p>The night before Kassandra Santamaria&rsquo;s quinces, she and her mother Ingrid thumbed through a photo album of Ingrid&rsquo;s quinceañera. In the kitchen area of their spacious Bolingbrook home, they tear up anticipating the next day&rsquo;s event. It is a party will cost them at least $16,000.</p><p>&ldquo;I just feel so happy. I just thank my mom. I can be so mean sometimes. And I regret it. But I tell her everyday I love her,&rdquo; Kassandra said while crying. Ingrid put her arm around her daughter and assured her.</p><p>&ldquo;This day is going to be really, really special,&quot; Ingrid said. &quot;And I&rsquo;m pretty sure we&rsquo;re all going to have fun.&rdquo;</p><p>The night of the quinceañera was, in a word, peachy. At a Chicago banquet hall, peach-colored ribbons are tied around chairs. Peach napkins are on tables, peach roses sit on a seven-tiered cake. The damas have peach dresses, all to match Kassandra&rsquo;s fluffy peach gown. While waiting for the party to start, guests get their pictures taken on a red carpet.</p><p>Arnold Correa is the night&rsquo;s DJ. He says at least 50 percent of his quinceañera customers pay an extra $375 for the red carpet experience. For the works -- music, lighting, red carpet photography, and emcee services -- Kassandra&rsquo;s parents will pay a little more than $1,300, the wintertime discount.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Everyone wants to make their quinceañera more extravagant. Which is a good thing. For me and the other vendors,&rdquo; Correa said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s so much revenue coming out of this: boutique shops, cakes, choreographers, DJs.&rdquo;</p><p>That is money, millions of dollars, recirculated within Latino communities throughout the United States. Because most quinces vendors are fellow Latinos.</p><p>But none of that matters to 15-year-old Kassanda. For her, the evening is nothing less than priceless.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ Host/Producer Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">@yolandanews</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub" target="_blank">Google+</a></em></p></p> Fri, 21 Feb 2014 11:55:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/fit-princess-109750 Morning Shift: What's next for immigration reform on a local and national level http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-11-21/morning-shift-whats-next-immigration-reform-local-and <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/chip mitchell.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Morning Shift is on the road this morning at our West Side Bureau in Chicago&#39;s Little Village neighborhood for conversations around immigration reform &ndash; where do we stand and where do we go from here?<iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-immigration-reform-in-illinois-and-t/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 21 Nov 2013 12:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-11-21/morning-shift-whats-next-immigration-reform-local-and Teacher brings library close to home for her Little Village neighbors http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/teacher-brings-library-close-home-her-little-village-neighbors-106825 <p><p>The enclosed porch behind Rachel Perveiler&rsquo;s Little Village apartment is crammed with shelves stuffed with books and games. It&rsquo;s also filled with children from her neighborhood.</p><p>Perveiler&rsquo;s porch is the meeting place for &ldquo;La Biblioteca del Personas,&rdquo; or the People&rsquo;s Library. Meeting here has become a weekly ritual for Perveiler and the children in her neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;Okay boys, are you turning in books?&rdquo; Perveiler asked brothers Joaquin and Jose Camacho.</p><p>&ldquo;I want to still keep this one, but I&rsquo;m returning this one back.&rdquo; Joaquin said.</p><p>&ldquo;Okay, go ahead, put it back,&rdquo; Perveiler said.</p><p>As the children looked through the shelves, pulling out books, Perveiler asked 9-year old Jaylene Rios what she thought of her most recent selection.</p><p>&ldquo;Did you like Charlotte&rsquo;s Web, or no?&rdquo; Perveiler asked.</p><p>&ldquo;Oh yeah. I&rsquo;m barely right there,&rdquo; Jaylene said, as she pointed to a place toward the beginning of the book.</p><p>&ldquo;The first chapter? Okay, so you liked it?&rdquo; Perveiler asked.</p><p>&ldquo;Yeah,&rdquo; Jaylene said.</p><p>Since the library began two years ago, the teacher said she&rsquo;s watched the kids develop what she hopes will become a life-long reading habit, and she&rsquo;s seen their reading skills improve.</p><p>She points to Jaylene, who started with Frog and Toad are Friends and has now moved on to Charlotte&rsquo;s Web.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve seen their interests grow,&rdquo; Perveiler said. Rather than just coming over because I&rsquo;m here and I&rsquo;m a new person, they come over actually to check out books, and they want to get a new book or they want to get a book that they know their friend just read.&rdquo;</p><p>The library began when the 23-year-old moved to Little Village back in 2011 to be close to her first job as a special education teacher at nearby Finkl Academy.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Porch%20Library%202%20-%20Rachel%20and%20Joaquin%281%29.JPG" style="float: right; height: 263px; width: 350px;" title="Joaquin Camacho talks with Rachel Perveiler as she checks in books. Perveiler uses a spiral notebook to keep track of what books are currently checked out. (WBEZ/Rebecca Kruth)" />Perveiler was moving into her apartment when some of the neighbor kids saw her carrying boxes.</p><p>&ldquo;They offered to help carry the boxes in. When they found out they were children&rsquo;s books, they were curious to see why [I had] all these children&rsquo;s books,&rdquo; Perveiler said.</p><p>The books were for her classroom, but since it was still summer, the kids asked if they could borrow them. They sat on her porch, read the books and returned them the same afternoon.</p><p>Word about the books soon spread in the neighborhood, and the children began coming to Perveiler&rsquo;s regularly. As the library evolved, the group members decided they needed to have some rules and expectations for members. They even developed a pledge, which greets visitors as they enter the library.</p><p>Joaquin Camacho, 9,&nbsp; read the hand-lettered poster out loud.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;As a member of the library, I pledge to be a role model. I promise to [show] respect and responsibility,&rdquo; Joaquin said. &ldquo;I promise these in the name of leadership, because the world needs leaders.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Before they can use the library, kids must also complete a special task. Each new member makes a bookmark to take home. After a week, they have to bring it back to Perveiler in good shape to prove they&rsquo;re responsible. If it&rsquo;s ruined, they have to do it again before they can check out a book.</p><p>Today, the library has around 500 books, mostly donations from friends and family. But, as Joaquin said, not all of the books come from outside sources.</p><p>&ldquo;My brother, Jose, and I are going to make a comic book, The Adventures of Big Fist and Lightning Man,&rdquo; Joaquin said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re going to put it in the library with the other comics.&rdquo;</p><p>The library doesn&rsquo;t just have books for children: Leslie Luna, 9, said her father uses the library to improve his English.</p><p>&ldquo;He talks Spanish, and so he&rsquo;s practicing his English,&rdquo; Leslie said. &ldquo;When he was in Mexico he almost dropped out of school, because he needed to work for his family, so he didn&rsquo;t get to do a lot of education in his life.&rdquo;</p><p>Leslie said she chooses books for the two of them to read together. &ldquo;I like to help him, a lot,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>When Perveiler isn&rsquo;t available at the makeshift library, her boyfriend, Michael Aumiller, helps fill in. He said he&rsquo;s also the unofficial homework helper.</p><p>&ldquo;They have limited access to internet and that sort of thing, so they like to borrow my encyclopedias. I&rsquo;ll flag things down that are important,&rdquo; Aumiller said.</p><p>Aumiller said in neighborhoods facing challenges like Little Village, it&rsquo;s important to have an involved</p><p>network of neighbors.</p><p>&ldquo;Since the library started, I&rsquo;ve noticed we just have a greater sense of connection to the community,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I just think that is something that is very important to the overall health of Drake Avenue.&rdquo;</p><p>As for Perveiler, she hopes that sense of community spreads to the kids, along with improved literacy skills.</p><p>&ldquo;I would like to see their interest in reading and their interest in each other socially, as friendships in their community, continue to grow,&rdquo; Perveiler said. &ldquo;If the space remains on the back porch always, that is perfectly fine with me.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Rebecca Kruth is a WBEZ Arts and Culture Desk intern. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/rjkruth" target="_blank">@rjkruth</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 25 Apr 2013 03:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/teacher-brings-library-close-home-her-little-village-neighbors-106825 Legislators warn residents of compromises on immigration reform http://www.wbez.org/news/legislators-warn-residents-compromises-immigration-reform-106512 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/DurbinGutierrez_130405_acm(1).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Senator Dick Durbin and Congressman Luis Gutierrez Thursday warned that a senate immigration reform bill in the works might not address all of the problems facing residents living illegally in the United States.</p><p>They spoke to residents of the predominantly Latino neighborhood of Little Village in Chicago. They shared their optimism about a proposal from the team of bipartisan senators scheduled to come out next week. It offers a path to citizenship.</p><p>Senator Durbin said his ideal comprehensive package will be trimmed during negotiations at the nation&#39;s capital. The fundamentals, however, aren&#39;t up for debate.</p><p>&ldquo;We said to everybody, every senator walking into that room, before you sit down, you have to commit,&rdquo; Durbin said. &ldquo;That when this is over, these people will have the opportunity to become legal and then become citizens, and they say &lsquo;yes.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>But in a recent New York Times editorial co-authored with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Gutierrez also expressed concern about farm workers and the possibility of a guest-worker program.</p><p>According to news reports, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce&nbsp; and the AFL-CIO have agreed on a work visa program that requires companies to pay immigrant workers fair wages.&nbsp;</p><p>Gutierrez hinted during a small gathering with constituents on Thursday that any proposal written by members in his chamber needs to addresses those issues.</p><p>The gathering took place at Enlace Chicago, a local community organization. Students and their parents shared their stories and asked both Durbin and Gutierrez to keep their concerns in mind.</p><p>Karen Canales is a current senior at Social Justice High School. She said President Obama&rsquo;s recent Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program does not really give her the opportunities she needs to move forward in her career.</p><p>&ldquo;The derefer action doesn&rsquo;t guarantee any FAFSA, any government loans for me to continue my education,&rdquo; Canales said.</p><p>Justina Alfaro is also a senior from Farragut Career Academy. She said eight years ago her dad was deported back to Mexico for not having a driver&rsquo;s license. She said she hopes the new immigration proposals will focus on reuniting families.</p><p>&ldquo; I was 11 years old when I saw that my dad was being arrested,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s been difficult for my family&nbsp; and for me because he was the support of the house.&rdquo;</p><p>Senator Durbin said if an agreement on immigration reform is reached, the bill will go to the Judiciary committee to start an amendment process.&nbsp; Meanwhile, Gutierrez said a House bill could be coming soon after the Senate&rsquo;s proposal.</p></p> Fri, 05 Apr 2013 10:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/legislators-warn-residents-compromises-immigration-reform-106512 South Lawndale, aka Little Village http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-03/south-lawndale-aka-little-village-105892 <p><p>Our subject is Community Area 30, the area of the West Side generally centered around 26<sup>th</sup> and Central Park. Historically, the neighborhood was known as South Lawndale.</p><p>That&rsquo;s still the official name. But around 1964 community leaders here began referring to their turf as Little Village. North Lawndale was going through some bad times, and the people south the Burlington railroad wanted to emphasize their separate status. To keep the narration simple, I&rsquo;m calling this area SLLV.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/South%20Lawndale--Trumbull%20Avenue%20%282013%29_0.JPG" title="Welcome to South Lawndale--or is it Little Village?" /></div></div></div><p>In 1869 the City of Chicago annexed most of the area that would become SLLV. The only hints of civilization then were a few farms and a little settlement near the Burlington tracks. That would soon change.</p><p>The Great Fire of 1871 wiped out downtown Chicago. The McCormick Reaper Works on the lakefront was among the properties destroyed. The company rebuilt on the outskirts of the city, at Western and Blue Island avenues. When employees at the new plant began settling nearby, developers began subdividing in SLLV.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/03-14--SLLV%20map.jpg" style="width: 518px; height: 345px;" title="" /></div><p>Over the next 30 years, the community grew slowly and steadily. Many of the residents were Czechs moving west from Pilsen. There were also some Germans and Poles. In 1889 the city annexed the area west of Crawford Avenue (Pulaski Road), giving SLLV its current boundaries.</p><p>The real building boom came with the new century. In 1903 the massive Hawthorne Works opened just to the west, while to the north, the Douglas Park &lsquo;L&rsquo; line was being extended. Cottages, two-flats, and distinctive three-decker flats began filling up the 25-foot lots of SLLV. A ribbon commercial strip took hold along 26<sup>th</sup> Street.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/South Lawndale--26th St.JPG" title="26th Street commercial strip" /></div><p>Meanwhile, other factories and rail yards were being constructed along the community&rsquo;s eastern and western borders. The Sanitary and Ship Canal was built along the southern periphery, and attracted similar development. SLLV became an island surrounded by a sea of industry. &nbsp;</p><p>The population reached 84,000 in 1920, making SLLV was one of the most densely-packed communities in Chicago. The residents were mainly blue collar and Czech. The most prominent was Anton Cermak, businessman and political boss. Cermak&rsquo;s clout brought the community the Cook County court house and jail complex. In 1931 he became mayor of Chicago.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/South Lawndale--Court House (2013).JPG" title="Mr. Cermak's court house" /></div><p>From Cermak&rsquo;s time into the 1960s, SLLV didn&rsquo;t change much. The population steadily declined to about 60,000, which was a blessing. Poles replaced Czechs as the dominant nationality. A few African-Americans lived in the northeast section. There were also a small number of Hispanics.</p><p>The last-named group proved to be the future of SLLV. In 1970 about a third of the population was Hispanic, and by 1980 that proportion had become 74 percent. At the same time, the total number of residents began rising. The 1980 census counted 75,000 people living in Community Area 30. Twenty years later the population reached a historic high of 91,000.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/South%20Lawndale--Epiphany%20Catholic%20Church%20%282013%29.JPG" title="Epiphany Catholic Church" /></div><p>Today SLLV is home to about 79,000 people. The 2010 Census identified the population as 84 percent Hispanic, with 12 percent African-American and 4 percent White. The Mexican community is the largest&nbsp;in the Midwest. A highpoint on the calendar is the 26<sup>th</sup> Street Mexican Independence Day Parade in September.</p><p>Hawthorne Works and most of the other factories are gone, and many SLLV residents work in clerical and service jobs. The 26<sup>th</sup> Street strip continues to be one of the city&rsquo;s busiest outlying shopping districts. In recent years several public schools have been built to serve the area.</p><p>SLLV has always suffered from a lack of parks. Though Douglas Park is just to the north, the only facility in the community itself is Piotrowski Park on 31<sup>st</sup> Street. Perhaps some of the vacated industrial land can be devoted to recreational facilities.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/South%20Lawndale--Little%20Village%20High%20School%20%282013%29.JPG" title="New use for old industrial land--Little Village High School" /></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 20 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-03/south-lawndale-aka-little-village-105892 Mexican poet leads march against drug war http://www.wbez.org/news/mexican-poet-leads-march-against-drug-war-102148 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/JavierSiciliaCROP.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Led by a renowned Mexican poet, a four-mile march through Chicago&rsquo;s West Side on Monday evening called for an end to the U.S. war on drugs. Javier Sicilia, whose 24-year-old son was killed last year by Mexican drug traffickers in Cuernavaca, blames the drug war for tens of thousands of violent deaths in that country.</p><p>Sicilia says the war has been devastating north of the border too. To make that point, he is leading a month-long bus caravan through the United States. His group joined hundreds of Chicago activists on the march, which began in the city&rsquo;s Little Village neighborhood and ended in West Garfield Park.</p><p>&ldquo;These are African-Americans and Latinos who have been criminalized,&rdquo; he told WBEZ in Spanish, motioning to bystanders watching the march. &ldquo;They are more vulnerable because there is a drug war.&rdquo;</p><p>Sicilia said the war on drugs, which dates back to President Richard Nixon&rsquo;s administration, has fueled mass incarceration and street violence in the United States.</p><p>He compared that bloodshed to Chicago gangster violence during Prohibition almost a century ago. But the drug war has deeper effects, Sicilia said, &ldquo;because the scale is international and the weaponry is more powerful.&rdquo;</p><p>Sicilia said authorities should treat drug use as an issue of public health, not criminality.</p><p>The caravan is scheduled to wrap up in Washington next week.</p></p> Tue, 04 Sep 2012 00:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/mexican-poet-leads-march-against-drug-war-102148 Activists rejoice as coal-fired plants shut down http://www.wbez.org/news/activists-rejoice-coal-fired-plants-shut-down-102129 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Fisk.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 219px; width: 300px; " title="Built in 1903, the Fisk station stands near Dvorak Park in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. (AP file/M. Spencer Green)" /></p><div>Neighborhood and environmental activists are celebrating as Chicago&rsquo;s last two coal-fired electricity plants enter a three-month decommissioning phase. But the closings are leaving dozens of Midwest Generation workers without a job.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The company, a subsidiary of California-based Edison International, says its Crawford station in the city&rsquo;s Little Village neighborhood burned its last lump of coal more than a week ago after operating since 1924. The Fisk station, constructed in 1903 in nearby Pilsen, shut down Thursday night.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Activists campaigned for more than a decade to close the plants or curb their harmful emissions, which included asthma-triggering soot and carbon dioxide, a contributor to global warming.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Standing near Crawford on Friday afternoon, Rafael Hurtado of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization almost had to pinch himself to make sure he wasn&rsquo;t dreaming.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;The smokestack and the chimney are not running,&rdquo; Hurtado observed. &ldquo;The parking lot is empty other than the security guards. This is a victory not only for our organization but Little Village and Pilsen and the city of Chicago.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Local 15 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represented about 135 workers at the plants, says some are accepting retirement packages or transferring to another Midwest Generation site, where they will bump employees with less seniority. The union represents about 700 workers at the company&rsquo;s six Illinois generators.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;There just aren&rsquo;t enough jobs,&rdquo; said Doug Bedinger, a Local 15 business representative for the workers. &ldquo;There will be hardship.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Midwest Generation President Douglas McFarlan said roughly 100 union members are leaving voluntarily while another 50 get laid off.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>McFarlan, meanwhile, said the company is trying to sell the Chicago sites. The timing of environmental remediation &ldquo;depends on the interests&rdquo; of the buyers, he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s part of the sales process,&rdquo; McFarlan said, adding that a school might have different cleanup needs than a warehouse.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The closings resulted partly from federal clean-air rules requiring Midwest Generation to retrofit its plants. McFarlan said a bigger factor was the rise of natural gas production, which has put downward pressure on energy prices. &ldquo;We just can&rsquo;t run profitably,&rdquo; he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Fri, 31 Aug 2012 18:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/activists-rejoice-coal-fired-plants-shut-down-102129