Exploring the Latino Metropolis: A Brief Urban Cultural History of US Latinos

The Political Climate of Chicago

Today (March 13th, 2016), Latinos all over Chicago rejoice over effectively cancelling the Donald Trump rally in Chicago. The Wall Street Journal reports a Mexican flag being waved in the air as the crowd chants, "We Stopped Trump," (Pollak). After campaigning under a banner of xenophobia where one of his core policies is to build a wall along the American-Mexican border, it is not hard to imagine why Latinos, particularly Mexicans, would prefer to keep Donald Trump far away from their city. I bring up this example because it exemplifies, in many ways, the growing power Latinos in Chicago have over the political system. A large change from the 1940s and 50s where it would not have been impossible for  Mexican or Puerto Rican Chicagoans to influence a presidential election. But as the Latino population only grows in Chicago so does their influence.

Today, Chicago holds the 5th largest Latino population in the united states, falling behind only NYC, LA, Houston, TX, and San Bernardino, CA ("Hispanic Population in Select U.S. Metropolitan Areas, 2011"). With a population of over 1.9 Million, Latinos have moved past their original neighborhoods and started to move into the suburbs. In fact, many Latinos no longer use the city as an entry point into Chicago, instead moving directly into growing Latino communities in the suburbs (CMW Staff). According to the 2000 census, a majority of Latinos live in the suburbs ("Mexicans"). As such, Latinos finally have a large amount of influence in the local governments.

Which is incredibly useful considering the historical problems faced by Latinos in Chicago--labor, citizenship for Mexicans, police violence for Puerto Ricans, and integration--are still present today. Needs assessments are being done to try and assess the problems that Latinos face in Chicago. Studies are proving the segregation that continues to persist in Chicago school districts. Many Latinos, especially in the city, continue to live in poorer area. It was estimated that the combined wealth of the Latino Metropolitan wealth equaled that of the 2003 GDP of Panama ($20Billion) despite Latinos making up the largest ethnic group in Chicago (CMV STAFF). As of 1990, 60% of Puerto Ricans continue to work in the service sector or manufacturing industry despite the increase in education. Opportunity is limited. As such, Latino organizations are continuingly being created to address these situations. Projects such as the Reconstruction Project in Pilsen are taking place to revive communities by focusing--as has worked historically--on the arts and education of the younger generation.

To learn more about the historical and present day states of the Latino culture and geography in Chicago, please continue to the links below:

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