It was a trip to the history museum that surprised the students at the Justice and Leadership Academy in Pilsen. While the exhibits there are of great interest, the Hispanics were conspicuous by their absence. There was no exhibit showing that Mexicans have been in this city since 1920.
Realizing that apparently Hispanics did not exist, the students petitioned the museum to include them and dignify them as part of this city.
Members of that museum, located on North and Clark avenues, announced that they are in agreement and it will take three years to mount an exhibition worthy of the contributions of Mexicans and Latinos to this city.
Britanny Hutchinson, Associate Curator of the Chicago History Museum, told the press that, apart from the exhibition, the museum will take steps to create programs and a permanent relationship with the Hispanic community.
And in addition, this museum will seek to take the necessary steps to create a collection of Hispanic history.
One of the students, Jair Ramírez, told an English newspaper that he remembered his mother telling him that the famous singer Joan Sebastián, now deceased, worked and composed songs in a supermarket in Pilsen.
In my book ‘Memories of Pilsen’, available through Amazon.com, a tale of Joan Sebastián’s beginnings in Chicago. Also about the struggle to build Benito Juárez High School and the lives and work of muralists Mario Castillo, Ray Patlan, Marcos Raya and Salvador Vega.
My book also contains a chapter on the life and death of leader Rudy Lozano and more information on other struggles in Pilsen.
History is like a retrospective reflection of where we have walked and what we have accomplished as a community. Outside of California and Texas, the Chicago area has the highest concentration of Mexicans in the country.
Recently on the El Beisman website I wrote the story of Frank X. Paz, a native of Morelia, Michoacán, who was an activist in Chicago in the 1930s, 1940s, and mid-1950s.
He founded the Mexican Civic Committee, which fought to help Mexicans fight racism and discrimination in work, housing, and institutions. At the end of that article I suggest that the Hispanic community should consider founding a Museum of Social Activists to collect the lives and struggles of the many Mexican immigrants who have fought to defend the community.
Also recently, retired professor Antonio P. Delgado has just published in English his book ‘Taking Off in the Streets’, which contains the history of the Mexican community from 1910 to 1960.
Delgado details his arrival, growth, and founding of organizations and newspapers in the Hull House area. For more information contact Delgado at [email protected]
Undoubtedly, the young people of Pilsen are quite right and they are setting a good example for us in civility. Other groups and organizations should join in this effort and demand that other institutions do the same.