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50 Wards in 50 Weekdays: 12th Ward's Esmerelda Nunez returns to the old neighborhood

With her kids in the back, Esmerelda Nunez leans over her SUV's engine and adds oil. It’s some on-the-spot automobile maintenance work for the 22-year-old stay-at-home mom from the Southwest Side.

“I’m about to take them to the doctor,” Nunez says. (Everyone's okay, she assures me.)

Nunez, her husband and three kids moved to the Brighton Park neighborhood barely a month ago.


“I think it’s alright,” she says. “We really don’t mess with nobody here. We're just in our apartment, get in our truck and go, come home and go in. We’re really not outside. But right now it seems okay.”

She’s not actually new to this neighborhood. Nunez grew up here, after her family moved from Mexico when she was 4. They stayed until she was 14 or 15.

“I used to go to high school over here at Thomas Kelly,” Nunez says. “So it’s not like a big change.”

But the area, she says, has changed. For the better.


“Well, back then there were a lot more…guys on the streets. There was a lot of more little crowds hanging out on the corners. Right now I don’t see [that] as much. In the night I still hear some people, like, yelling, but it’s not as much. Probably because it’s still not the summer yet. You never know. But right now it’s alright.”

Is she worried about what the summer may bring?

“I think as long as we don’t mess with nobody, they won’t mess with us.”

Like so many Chicagoans, the only mayor Nunez has ever known – until this past year – was Richard M. Daley.

She likes what the new mayor, Rahm Emanuel, is doing with education – extending the school day. But Nunez obviously has a soft spot for the old guy.


“I like Mayor Daley a lot," Nunez says. "He was mayor for a long time. I would never complain about him. He did a good thing. I like what he did downtown.”

It’s kind of weird, I suggest, having someone else as the mayor. She agrees.

“Well, you know, people have to move on."

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