Chicago Latin@s building communities of resistance


I arrived in NW Chicago about mid-day Friday. Howard and Andi Sass were gracious enough to let me stay at their house even though they were leaving town for the long weekend. I took 3 buses down to Pilsen to visit with Raul Raymundo, the longstanding charismatic ED of the Resurrection Project. The Resurrection Project’s mission is “to build relationships and challenge people to act on their faith and values to create healthy communities through organizing, education and community development.” I was deeply impressed with the success the RP has had in reaching their goals and in building a non-profit that is self-sustaining and not dependent on grant funding. As with my other conversations, I also learned about Raul’s familial history and how his parents’ values and experiences shaped him to be a community leader in the very neighborhood he grew up in after coming to the US at age seven. His father journeyed here in 1968 when he was recruited to work in a Chicago factory from Mexico City.

I had learned that a friend and former UTSA colleague, Rodolfo Rosales, was in town attending the American Political Science Association conference. He was staying with another friend, Juan Mora, so later that afternoon I went downtown to catch up with them at an outdoor cafe for a few drinks. It was a bit surreal to be in such a big metropolis after spending so much time in rural areas. On my way to our rendezvous point I encountered a Critical Mass demonstration in downtown Chicago. The Friday before leaving on my trip in late June, I’d seen one in Minneapolis. This one was very large, so I respectfully dodged and darted my way through the bikes to cross the street. On Sunday I would see news from Minneapolis about a hostile encounter with the police by Critical Mass participants that occurred about the same time as the Chicago ride was occurring.

After a nice long evening with my friends discussing my trip and local community politics in Chicago, I made my way back to NW Chicago via the train. From Juan I learned about the philosophy of building communities of resistance that was guiding the resistance to gentrification of the Humboldt Park neighborhood. …

The next day I was happy to see that I was only about 7 miles from Humboldt Park so I rode the bike there mid-afternoon and basked in the Midwest’s largest celebration of Puerto Rican culture. There were three stages providing music, poetry, and hip-hop–from traditional, to folk, to avant guarde. I stayed a few hours and left so I could make it back to the house before dark. See some samples of the blending of hip-hop and the local issues coming together below.

Unlike small towns, in a big city like Chicago, it’s not about looking for visible evidence of Latino life and culture, but rather of deciding what to focus on and who to speak with about the many efforts to sustain and enhance Latina/o life. What was made clear to me about the stakes in Humboldt Park’s resistance to gentrification is the very notion of cultural cohesion as it relates to space. Without a neighborhood where the historical, social, and cultural integrity is maintained in an everyday fashion, these folks stand to lose their very soul–a whole way of life.