It has been five decades since the Young Lords Organization was transformed in 1968 from a Chicago neighborhood gang into a Latino civil and human rights movement led by its leader and founder Jose (Cha-Cha) Jimenez. Now there is evidence that an entire group of at -risk youth can change.
They did it at the street corner, while at the same time fighting for the self – determination of Puerto Rican and other Latino nations, and for empowerment, against the city hall corruption of Mayor Richard J. Daley. That patronage machine was being fueled by an infamous land grab which doctored the Chicago Skyline, next to Lake Michigan and the areas in and around downtown.
These same downtown areas were the areas where Hillbillies and southern Whites, Native Americans, along with Blacks from the south had populated near the hotels and downtown factories, after the second World War. It was fully integrated, and now had also become the home of Mexican laborers and the Puerto Rican Diaspora.
This is the same diaspora created federally by the war effort and sponsored by the Puerto Rican puppet government of Luis Munoz Marin. It was supported economically by the US Operation Bootstrap program. Today, it is common knowledge that Operation Bootstrap displaced annually tens of thousands of the nation’s Jibaro farmers while rehabbing an entire nation into a new form of an industrial revolution.
The purpose was clear, to grab agricultural lands, scatter the population and to complete the process of colonialism begun during the US invasion of this enchanted Isla Del Encanto in 1898 during the Spanish American War. The aggregados or share croppers left the island in the mid 1940’s to feed their families because they were untrained industrially for the punch press and hotel economy. Many came to Michigan farms to canneries in Lake Odessa and farms in Fennville, as well as to the steel mills of Burns or Indiana Harbor in Indiana. Soon they were moving to the nearby cities like Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Holland, and eventually working in hot bakeries and factories.
In Chicago they settled and created two near downtown barrios; the neighborhoods of La Madison and La Clark named after the main street corridors where they settled. These streets were then skid row areas, but the Puerto Rican laborers chose them for cheap rent, because they had no plans to stay. As soon as they were able to earn and save a few dollars many packed up and returned back to Puerto Rico, to be with their spouses and children. This, only to have to return back to the US because there were no more agricultural jobs and new factories in Puerto Rico were few in number.
Meanwhile in Chicago, the federal Government was at work once again displacing the Diaspora which now had formed church councils, recreation programs, social clubs, businesses and community organizations. La Clark and La Madison were near the lakefront and downtown, prime real estate. Residents there had become the frightened “White Flight” which moved to the suburbs when the Great Migration of minorities had moved into these various communities, near downtown.
The Downtown Michigan Avenue Business Association led by the infamous absentee developer, Arthur Rubloff constructed the Carl Sandburg Village, A huge development near Old Town on the northside of Chicago and displaced the La Clark Latino Neighborhood. West of downtown, the University of Illinois Circle Campus not only destroyed the Italian neighborhood of Jane Adams Settlement House, but the Irish centric Mayor Richard J. Daley also destroyed the Puerto Rican and Mexican neighborhoods situated in La Madison.
These displacements of the Diaspora are now a science existing in many cities and supported by city sponsored neighborhood associations who want to become the voices for the poor and renters. This is an assault on democracy because their voices eliminate the voices of the poor and minorities and support only their downtown interests. In fact they too have no voices and are only rubber stamps for downtown and city hall sponsored development which has cleansed the river and lake fronts of minorities and the poor and has re-created segregation. The factories and the hardworking families have been pushed out of the cities. That is one way to save on city services.
It has been the case in Chicago in Latino neighborhoods like Pilsen, Wicker Park, Lakeview, Uptown, Humboldt Park and Logan Square among others. On September 21, 22 and 23 2018, the Young Lords which began in the fully displaced of Latinos neighborhood of Lincoln Park, Chicago will celebrate their 50th Anniversary as a civil and human rights movement. Celebrations will take place at both DePaul University and Grand Valley State University where there are archives in special collections.
According to the founder, Jose (Cha-Cha) Jimenez, “We are in a protracted struggle to fulfill our mission, to free Puerto Rico and to empower our Latino barrios. Our struggle is just beginning.”