Humboldt Park: Prospering through resilience, understanding

Extra

By Christina E. Rodriguez
Extra News

CHICAGO — A community is what the residents make of it and it is a place designed by those who live there. This is the idea that Professor Jose Lopez talks about when explaining the consistent changes that have happened in Humboldt Park since the 1960s.

“I’ve lived here since 1959,” he said proudly. “I‘ve been here for the riots in 1966 and 1977. I have seen this community transform in a way that probably no other community has transformed itself but has done it through its own efforts.”

Lopez, the executive director of both the Institute of Puerto Rican Art and Culture as well as the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, claims that there have been too many communities that have been completely destroyed and can’t even come close to telling the tale of the people who once lived there. Humboldt Park residents are proud that they have that around the park and down Division Street.

“It’s an improvement not driven necessarily by the homogenized process of gentrification,” he said of the changes that have been made in the last 20 years.

To say that Humboldt Park has a deep-rooted history is an understatement.

In the late 60s, young men, mostly, gathered together under the thoughts and philosophies of one Puerto Rican man named Juan Diaz, “may he rest in peace,” says Leoncio Vazquez, CEO and president of the Spanish Action Committee of Chicago, established in 1966.

After the first settlements of Puerto Ricans in the Humboldt Park neighborhood from other neighborhoods like Lincoln Park and Wicker Park areas, Diaz took the initiative to put together a committee that would be the liaison between the Spanish-speaking community and city government.

“There was no one to represent us,” said Vazquez. “There was no …

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