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Chicago's First Mexican Church

Half a million Mexican-Americans call Chicago their home. But at the turn of the last century, early Mexican immigrants to Chicago fought an uphill battle to plant their roots here. This edition of Chicago Stories looks at the pioneering community that built Our Lady of Guadalupe nearly 80 years ago.

The original edifice of Our Lady of Guadalupe was an old army barracks transported from Michigan in 1923.

It is the story of two generations of Mexicans in the South Chicago neighborhood. The first came during World War I to work in the steel mills, and overcame bigotry and intolerance to build a viable community. The second generation was born here, proved their allegiance to America during World War II, and joined the ranks of the middle class in the 1950s, only to watch their neighborhood collapse along with the steel mills. Yet this second generation returns to Our Lady of Guadalupe at 9108 S. Brandon every Sunday; they are committed to keeping alive their parents' vision of a prosperous community, one that is both Mexican and American.

Map
Map of five Mexican "colonias" (neighborhoods)

Links and Resources

Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum
The Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum is devoted to knowledge and appreciation of the Mexican culture as it manifests itself both in and outside of Mexico. The museum is located at 1852 W. 19th Street, in the heart of the Pilsen/Little Village community, the largest Mexican community in the Midwest.

Familia Luna — The Luna Family Tree
This site tells the history of the descendants of Adrian Luna Marquez and Maria de Refugio Gonzalez (married in 1905), six generations strong, a Mexican family that settled on Chicago's West Side.

Special Web Feature

Voices of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Further memories and musings from some of the people appearing in this documentary:

Fred Jacques and Be Jacquez on immigrants working at the steel mills; Frank Valadez, on the employment process and church activities; Rita Mendez and Chela Ruiz on hard times and fulfilling dreams; Danny Ontiveros, on Spanish, prejudice, and the Church; Father James F. Maloney on Mexican immigrants, building the church, and the loyalty of parishioners; and Ray Castro on affection for the church.

About the Program Producer

Dan Protess is the Series Associate Producer for Chicago Stories. In addition to "Chicago's First Mexican Church," he has produced programs about former Congressman and ex-convict Dan Rostenkowski, Chicago's eccentric Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Lois Weisberg, priest-turned-romance novelist Father Andrew Greeley, and "Lost Chicago," about our city's demolished architectural treasures.

After graduating from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1996, he began his career producing an educational children's program at WPWR-TV, Chicago's UPN affiliate. Before coming to WTTW full-time, he served as Writer and Associate Producer for several programs on a free-lance basis. Among these were Chicago's Lakefront, Artbeat Chicago, and A Justice That Heals, an hour-long WTTW production that later aired on Nightline.

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