Pilsen’s First Via Crucis, 1977: Chicago’s Urban Crisis, Faith, and Immigrants

Juan Mora-Torres Publicado 2014-04-16 01:34:39

 

This article is dedicated to the memory of Jorge Nieto and the 25 Latinos who perished in the fire tragedies of 1976. QEPD/RIP.

Pilsen has held a Good Fridays’ Via Crucis (the Stations of the Cross) procession every year since 1977. This annual ritual attracts thousands of people and is an important marker of Pilsen’s Mexican and Catholic identity. Good Friday cross-carrying processions are fairly recent developments that have become common throughout the U.S., serving as a major example of how American Catholicism has been blending into the broader Latin American and Latino faith. Pilsen’s Via Crucis is one of largest and best-known processions in the country.

The parishioners of seven churches in Pilsen inaugurated this ritual in 1977 to publicly demonstrate their faith and to call attention to the social problems inflicting their community. Catholicism and politics fused together from the start, giving this universal Catholic event a local flavor. The first Via Crucis emerged as a response to three tragedies that occurred during the Holiday Season of 1976. These tragedies caused the death of 25 Latinos starting with a Christmas Eve apartment fire that killed 12 Pilsen residents, 10 of them children. These tragedies traumatized the Latino community. The first Via Crucis was organized to remember their deaths, point out the social ills affecting the community, and declare the community’s pledge to defend the rights of undocumented immigrants.

 

Pilsen and Chicago’s Fire Epidemic

On the evening of Christmas Eve families gathered to celebrate the ninth birthday of Jesús García at a third floor apartment located at 1811 W. 17th Street. According to Fire Department inspectors, the fire started when Jesús’ older brother attempted to use lighter fluid to light the barbecue grill in the hallway of the apartment. The fire went out of his control and rapidly spread, trapping the third floor residents. The firemen arrived and gave instructions in English to the families. Unable to understand the instructions, some jumped to their death while others burned in the third floor.

The deceased belonged to St. Vitus parish. Hundreds of people attended the services. The fathers of the deceased children were unemployed and surviving family members had lost all their possessions. During this collective grief the residents raised over $50,000 in donations to cover the cost of the funeral and other forthcoming expenses. They were buried at St. Mary’s cemetery in Evergreen Park.

A week later, on New Year’s Eve, and a block apart, another apartment fire killed five people, including a mother and her three children. The Fire Department inspector declared that the fire was caused by the “careless use of cleaning fluid.” They were also members of St. Vitus parish. The family was buried in Michoacán. The following day, New Year’s Day, eight Puerto Ricans died in an apartment fire in West Town. Hundreds of Puerto Ricans and Latinos attended their services; two of them were buried in Guayama, Puerto Rico.

In view that ten of twelve victims were children, the Christmas Eve tragedy received national press coverage. Expressing the official view of the Fire Department, Fire Marshall William Foley stated that, “We’ve been taking care of these neighborhoods for 70 years. We had problems when it was Polish, too . . . But the main problem is there are just a lot of people in difficult buildings. The problem is flammable fluids in buildings.” Stated in another way, it was the residents’ fault for living in such horrific conditions and for their ignorance on the causes of fires. They simply had to learn on the causes of fires.

The media did not question the Fire Department’s version that human carelessness was the cause of these tragedies. Sensitive to the ways the media portrayed Latinos, community leaders took offense, regarding the Fire Department’s version as an insult because it depicted Pilsen residents as ignorant Mexicans. As one of them said, “It makes us look foolish and ridiculous.” They pointed out that this calamity could had been prevented if the firemen would have responded faster to this emergency (the fire station was only three blocks away) and if they would have been able to communicate with the victims in Spanish. As the community mourned their dead, Father James Collaran of St. Vitus refused to allow the media into the parish during the funeral mass of the Christmas Eve fire victims.

Besides the blind acceptance of the Fire Department’s version, community leaders also criticized the media for neglecting to report on the “real” cause of the fire: the neighborhood’s poor housing conditions and the city’s neglect of social services. They pointed out that absentee landlords were part of the blame for collecting rents from tenants who lived in dilapidated and overcrowded housing. Residents feared that they could be the next victims given the neighborhoods housing conditions. They also pointed out that failure of firemen to communicate in Spanish was an example of how the city had neglected to provide adequate social services to Pilsen. Of the 4,500 fire fighters in Chicago, only 20 had Spanish surnames in 1976 (at this point the Latinos made up over 10% the city’s population). The last fireman hired was in 1973 and he was not Latino.

 

 

The fire tragedies became one of Michael Bilandic’s first problems as mayor of Chicago. Following the unexpected death of Richard J. Daley on December 20, he was only a few days into his new job when the fire tragedies occurred. To appease a mourning and angry community who demanded accountability, Bilandic order a basic Spanish crash courses for firemen stationed in Latino neighborhoods. Captain Ray Orozco, the highest-ranking Latino fire fighter, was assigned to Pilsen as the Fire Department’s liaison to the Latino community and to head the crash course in basic Spanish. (Years later he headed the Chicago Fire Department). A few days into his new appointment, it was discovered that Orozco’s did not speak Spanish.

The Pilsen and West Town fires were not isolated tragedies that hit unfortunate communities. Indeed, 1976 was not a good year for Chicago when it came to deaths resulting from fires, accidental and intentional. The year began when an arsonist set fire to the Wincrest Nursery Home, causing the death of 23 senior citizens; it ended with the death of 25 Latinos in the three separate apartment fires of the Holiday Season. Altogether fires caused the death of 156 people in Chicago (compare to 27 in 2011).

These fires were symptoms of a deepening urban crisis. As part of a larger story, these tragedies symbolized the extent of Chicago’s urban decay, a process that was two decades in the making and was largely the result of yearly losses of thousands of inhabitants and manufacturing jobs. Mainly due to the “white flight” to suburbs, Chicago lost over 600,000 inhabitants from 1950 to 1980, half of them during the decade of the 1970s when the demographic composition rapidly shifted from a two-third “white ethnic” majority to an African American and Latino majority. As the city registered 300,000 less residents, it gained 276,000 Latinos. Put another way, the city would had lost many more inhabitants if it had not been for Latinos whose share of the Chicago’s population doubled, increasing from 7% to 14 %. Overall Chicago became poorer and darker in the composition of its population.

The “white flight” left in its wake a large supply of housing that went unfilled, in spite of increasing number of Latinos and African Americans. Much of this housing was old and in need of major repairs. As property values spiraled down, many property owners were of the mindset of getting whatever they could before it was too late. Aiming to collect insurance money, many buildings were torched and “arson for profit” primarily targeted African American and Latino neighborhoods such as West Town, Austin, Humboldt Park, and Uptown. The numbers of “arson for profit” jumped in Chicago from 347 in 1974 to 979 three years later (or roughly from one fire a day to close to two and a half). This figure does not include non-arson fires. In 1977 half of the arsons concentrated in nine of Chicago’s 77 communities. In one year, from 1975 to 1976, the number of deaths resulting from “arson for profit” increased from 2 to 44 in Illinois.

“Arson for profit” was not the reason for the Christmas and New Year’s Eve fires that occurred in Pilsen’s 17th Street. Pilsen was one of the few communities where new comers successfully filled the housing vacuum left by the neighborhood’s white flight. Unlike other communities with decaying housing, Pilsen registered a small increase in residents during the 1970s, ending the slide of four successive decades of population losses that began in 1930 when it contained 66,000 residents. As main the port-of-entry for immigrants arriving from Mexico at that time, Pilsen was saved from arsonists because landlords had not problems renting apartments in view that the number of housing units had declined by 1,100 between 1960 and 1977, a loss of 15% of its housing stock.

The relationship between population growth and decline in housing units transformed Pilsen into an overcrowded neighborhood with one of the oldest housing stocks in Chicago. It contained 425 buildings that were classified as substandard and in need of major repairs. It also had 40 abandoned building, good targets for “arson for profit.” At one point in the 1960s the city was seriously considering labeling Pilsen as a “blighted” neighborhood, the first step for bulldozing down the neighborhood in the name of “urban renewal.” Strong opposition from the community saved Pilsen. However, Pilsen remained a “tenement district” during the 1970s, a place where housing conditions were as bad as any other inner-city neighborhood.

 

Jesus Christ in the skin.

 

Immigration and the New Nativism

Although the crash course in basic Spanish phrases for firemen stationed in Latino neighborhoods appeared to be a minor political gesture to appease an angry Latino community (among the phrases and words that were being taught included “fuego!,” “no brinque!,” and “sálganse!”), it generated an unexpected storm of negative commentaries in the media, including letters to the editor. The thread of the commentaries made the assumption that Latinos should take responsibility for the fire tragedies for refusing to learn English. It was the responsibility of Latinos to follow the path of previous immigrant groups by learning the language of this country. A few examples highlight this thread of reaction: “What does it take to bring home to those stiff-necked Latinos that when they move to a foreign country the least they could do is attempt to learn the language?” Now that Pilsen was going to have a new high school (Benito Juárez), “It would be a fitting memorial to the victims of the fire if the Pilsen community . . . provides the children of the community with the tools they must have to survive-and thrive-in an English-speaking country.” “They are going to learn English, just as millions of other immigrants did before them, or they will never realize the full potential of the American Dream that presumably brought them here.” Stated more directly, Latinos should “learn or burn.”

One of the letters to editor of The Chicago Tribune stressed that the Christmas Eve fire should “not be used as an excuse to push Chicago still further toward becoming a permanent bilingual city.” Reading through these views, one can see the early articulation of modern day nativism in the US, the fear of immigrants. Jack Gallapo, the president of the Fire Fighters Union, clearly expressed this nativism in declaring his opposition to the Spanish crash course because it was “foolish and un-American . . . This is America, let them learn English.” This nativism targeted Latinos above all groups. The emerging nativist narrative designated Latinos as the only immigrant group who had rejected assimilation into the American mainstream. Their failure to learn English was an example of their un-American attitude. (It should be noted that Samuel Huntington, the Harvard scholar, used similar arguments, albeit in academic jargon, in his 2005 controversial article, “The Hispanic Challenge.” This article became the bible in making nativism respectable and a cornerstone of the Republican Party political agenda).

This nationalism reflected an anxiety from a sizeable sector of population that feared the growing Latino presence. Latinos were changing the face of Chicago. The urban crisis nurtured the rise of nativist views in Chicago (as expressed by the commentaries generated by the Spanish crash course), especially the high rates of unemployment of the 1970s. The ending of the Bracero Program in 1964 and the Immigration Act of 1965 encouraged the growth of legal and undocumented migration. Chicago became one of the main destination points for Mexican migrant workers. Within a few years the word “illegal alien” became associated with Mexicans and no other immigrant group. Take the case of the title of a report produced by the State of Illinois Legislative Investigation Commission, “The Illegal Mexican Alien Problem.” Presented to the legislature of the state in 1971, it made the point that the “Illinois economy is being victimized by the employment of illegal aliens in the state,” and that “the illegal aliens situation in Illinois primarily concerns Mexican nationals.” In spite of the fact that Illinois contained large numbers of undocumented Poles and other Eastern Europeans, the “illegal alien” label was associated with Mexicans, a point that the mass media constantly reinforced.

Not since the 1920s and early year of the Great Depression had Mexicans and Latinos been as closely scrutinized as in the early 1970s when the “Mexican problem” of past times reappeared. It was not difficult to convince the majority of public opinion about “Mexican illegal alien problem” in view of the high rates of unemployment caused by Chicago’s transition from manufacturing to a service economy. From 1963 to 1976 the city lost 127,000 manufacturing jobs; an additional 111,000 people were laid-off during the recession of 1974-1975. The official unemployment in Pilsen reached 14.2% in 1977 (unofficially the rate was much higher) and double that rate for the youth.

The golden age of Chicago industry was coming to an abrupt end, hurting all especially working class communities. Taking into account the high unemployment rate in the city, it was not difficult to sell the view that Mexican “illegals” were taking jobs from American citizens. Mexican immigrants had become a scapegoat for the economic crisis.

By 1970 Pilsen had become the first of Chicago’s 79 communities to have a Latino majority. It had become the face of Mexican Chicago. It served as the main port- of-entry for Mexican migrant workers arriving in Chicago during the 1960s and 1970s. During the 1970s the foreign-born population in Pilsen increased from 25.6% to 44.7%, a figure that was much higher due to the fact that many undocumented migrants were not counted in the census.

Given the high concentration of immigrants living in Pilsen, the Immigration Naturalization Service (INS), “la migra,” targeted this community, waging a campaign of raids at bars, in the streets, outside of movie theatres, and inside people’s homes. A Jesuit activist reported that, “the Immigration officials used to show up outside the churches and wait for people to go outside.” It generated an atmosphere of fear. Carlos Arango, the veterano of the immigrant rights’ movement in Chicago, noted that fear of “la migra” reached such heights that immigrants refused to open their apartment’s door when people knocked. The Jesuit activist recalled that while he lived in Pilsen there were “a lot of people [who] never left their basements. I know this sounds insane, but there were people, especially women, [who] were undocumented and had families. They were scare shitless if you went and knocked in their doors.”

 

Pilsen Good Friday Parade, 1978. Chicago Historical Society.

Pilsen’s First Via Crucis, 1977

In addition to being an immigrant neighborhood, a port- of-entry into a rapidly growing Mexican Chicago, Pilsen was a community of young people. With a medium-age of 18.3 years in 1977, the urban crisis ravished young people. They suffered from high rates of unemployment, while 77% of them dropped out of school before completing high school. Unemployed, uneducated, and many without documents caused many of the young to engage in destructive behavior such drug addiction, especially heroin (Pilsen was a major distribution center for Mexican heroin in the Midwest), and gang violence. A study claimed that 2,000 young people belonged to gangs in Pilsen; the summer of 1977 registered 15 gang-related deaths in the neighborhood.

In light of the high unemployment, high dropout rates, youth violence, and other social problems rooted by a deepening urban crisis, Pilsen was a suffering community. It was also a community living in fear: fear of deportation, fear of dying in a building fire, fear of violence, parental fear of a bleak future for their children. It was also an aggrieved community that was sensitive to how the media portrayed it. (For example, an article in a major daily reported, “there are wetbacks in Pilsen, and it is the Anglo world that finds them and sends them back.” This was another insult that injured the community.)

As the reporting of the fire tragedies indicated, Pilsen was painted as a community made-up of ignorant Mexicans who lived in overcrowded housing and refused to learn English. It was portrayed as community of “illegal aliens/wetbacks” who “stole” jobs from American citizens. Moreover, the neighborhood was depicted as dirty, violent, and dangerous. Barrio leaders understood that these portraits of Pilsen were insults not only directed at Pilsen but to Mexicans and Latinos in general, a humiliations that they, as “a people,” faced on a regular basis.

It is within this backdrop of a suffering community, living in fear, and constantly insulted that helps us to understand the symbolic importance of the first Via Crucis and the role of political Catholicism in the struggle for immigrant rights. The Christmas Eve tragedy turned into an event that united the Pilsen community. This was a rare occasion because despite Pilsen’s reputation as a community of activism, Pilsen was a divided neighborhood. Divisions ranged from gang warfare over street corners to political divisions between competing organizations, especially over issues related to Benito Juárez High School, one of the great victories of community activism. The fire tragedies brought people to mourn collectively, collect donations, and make claims on the city and Fire Department, albeit for a brief period.

Seeking to maintain this unity, the St. Vitus pastoral team and parishioners approved the idea of remembering the victims of the fire tragedies with a Via Crucis on Good Friday. The other six churches agreed to participate and each parish assumed an assignment within the Via Crucis’ division of labor. Dr. Robert Stark, a Pilsen activist, Jesuit, and member of the St. Vitus pastoral team, wrote an excellent Ph. D dissertation with a thick description of making of the first Via Crucis. In addition, Dr. Karen Mary Davalos wrote a captivating article on the nature of the Via Crucis as it developed into the mid-1990s. Much of this article is informed by their work and I will only dwell on the political character of the first Via Crucis and the role that political Catholicism has played in the struggle for immigrants’ rights.

A year before the first Via Crucis, Pilsen’ s parishes offered a joint Easter Day sermon entitled, “Easter People made Strangers Welcomed.” The parishes boldly declared their commitment to defend the rights of undocumented immigrants and would refuse to cooperate with the immigration authorities. The sermon circulated widely throughout the neighborhood under the Proclamation Concerning the Gospel and the Undocumented. The proclamation made a call for unconditional amnesty for undocumented workers and offered persecuted immigrants sanctuary in the parishes. (It should also be noted that Pilsen’ s parishes were among the first churches to declare their parishes as sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants, a few years before the rise of the sanctuary movement in the U.S. that mainly catered to Central American political refugees.) It declared that the community constituted the Easter People who “reaffirmed their commitment to the process of liberation in Christ’s resurrection,” and “since we are indeed Easter People, we must change all forms of injustices in our community.” As Easter People, the community pledged to engage in the struggles for “unconditional amnesty, “a just living wage,” for “services,” and to “help those who live in fear and insecurity.” It also pledged to “prosecute those who exploit immigrants,” and fight “against discriminatory laws against immigrants.” This was a response to la migra’s attacks on the immigrant community.

Compared today’s timid demands and actions coming from the “leadership” of immigrant rights organizations and so-called pro-immigrant politicians, the Proclamation Concerning the Gospel and the Undocumented, the product of political Catholicism and community activism, was indeed a very bold declaration. What led to the call for “unconditional amnesty” and sanctuary for immigrants? Such a bold proclamation would have not been made ten years earlier.

A decade earlier the parishes were not that welcoming to Mexicans who were moving into Pilsen in large numbers. Ushers would stand outside the entrance of St. Pious and tell Mexicans to move on, pointing in the direction of St. Francis Church, the Mexican parish on Halsted and Roosevelt. Parishes had signs announcing “no Spanish masses” which was interpreted to mean that the parishes did not welcomed Mexicans. It was not until 1963 that St. Pious offered a Spanish mass—at the basement. St. Vitus offered its first Spanish language mass in 1969. In brief, Mexicans were regarded as unwanted strangers, as distant Catholics cousins.

In the mid-1960s a new generation of priests, nuns, and seminarians entered the Church and became active in the social movements of the era, including the Civil Rights movement and the United Farmworkers Union’s strikes and grape boycott. In Pilsen a group of 20 Catholic ministers formed the 18th Street Ministry, including Father James Colleran of St. Vitus. He was known as Padre Jaime, the “workers’ priest.” In addition to his priestly duties, he worked in a gas station. This Catholicism ministry mixed religion and politics, becoming very active in the many political struggles of the community. St. Vitus, for instance, worked closely with the Asociacion Pro-derechos Obreros (APO), an activist workers’ organization involved in many successful confrontational campaigns against the discriminatory practices of not employing Latino workers, such as in the case of the Chicago Transit Authority and Fire Department.

Besides recognizing that the future of the parishes and parochial schools in Pilsen depended on opening the doors to Mexicans, the ministries came into direct contact with their Mexican parishioners. They came face to face with their daily social ills, became familiar with their fears, and the insults inflicted on them. They embraced the community, recognizing it as a flock that suffered, lived in fear, and was insulted. They identified with them and, instead of seeing them as unwanted strangers, the community became the “Easter People.”

It would be very hard to find another place in the US where Catholic parishes established such close bonds with their Mexican parishioners. The Church in Pilsen became an integral part of the community’s struggles. This is important to recognize because Mexicans and Latinos had no powerful allies in Chicago, did not carry any electoral weight, and could not count on elected officials to fight for them (a few years later, Vito Marzullo, the alderman of the 25th ward that covered much of Pilsen, likened Mexicans to rats, dogs, and mice. This was another insult to the community). The community learned that it had to fend for itself because no powerful outsider was going to lift a finger to help or defend it.

Political Catholicism composed a key element in the emerging struggle to defend undocumented immigrants. The Centro de Accion Social Autonoma-Hermandad General de Trabajadores (CASA-HGT) emerged as the other major force in this struggle. Founded in 1974 by former member of a chapter of La Raza Unida Party, CASA-HGHT constituted a branch of a national organization that was founded in 1968 to defend undocumented immigrant workers. The Chicago chapter of CASA-HGT was born as a response to la migra’s heightened campaign against the undocumented migrants. Led by the charismatic Rudy Lozano, CASA-HGT became Mexican Chicago’s most important political organization and “the only organization that had members that were openly, militantly working for the rights of undocumented workers, whether it was in the work place or in the community space,” according to Dr. Robert Stark, the Jesuit activist and Pilsen resident. The demand for “unconditional amnesty for all undocumented immigrants” and “halt all deportations” became two of CASA-HGT’s main contributions to the struggle for immigrant rights in this country.

 

 Via Crucis in Iztapalapa, Mexico.

 

Political Catholicism and CASA-HGT’s activism fused together in the mid-1970s and this is clearly manifested in the Proclamation Concerning the Gospel and the Undocumented. It is also demonstrated in the organizing of the Via Crucis which aimed to associate the suffering of the community with the suffering of Christ, to make it into “an event that is happening daily in our community; Christ abandoned; Christ undocumented; Christ sick; Christ unemployed; Christ imprisoned. We wish to say through the Way of the Cross that Jesus Christ is alive and suffering in our city.” The community identified with the abandoned, sick, unemployed, imprisoned, and undocumented Christ. As a community product, the Via Crucis turned into an expression of its suffering and concerns.

Without a doubt, Latinos and Mexicans have had a strong attachment to the suffering Jesus who carried the heavy cross on Good Friday. Visit a parish in Mexico, Central America, and the U.S. and you will find people engaged in intimate prayer in front of the image of the suffering Christ. This intimate praying is repeated thousands of times every day throughout the Latino and Latin American Catholic world. Go to any home and you will find the image of the suffering Jesus. Visit any prison and you will see inmates with tattoos of the image of Jesus with his crown of thorns and the image of the Sacred Hear of Jesus (bleeding). Mexicans and Latinos revered the image of the suffering Jesus more than Christ the King of the world, an indication of how they connect their suffering to the suffering of Jesus who was sacrificed over 2000 years ago.

This connection to the suffering Jesus is deeply expressed in Mexico and Latin America and is deeply engrained in the immigrant’s world view; their notions of what is justice and injustice is largely grounded in Catholism (and the indigenismo of the Mexico profundo). A letter to Sin Fronteras, CASA-HGT’s national newspaper, demonstrates how an immigrant from Chicago used faith as a lens for making sense of the world. He wrote, “This letter is in memory of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ who struggled for the poor people of the world and was an exemplary human being . . . [he] may have been sacrificed for the simple act of struggling for peace, love, and equality such as Allende in Chile and the massacre of thousands of workers by Judah Pinochet. . .”

The influence of faith in providing people with a lens for making sense of the world continues to the present. During the Immigrants’ Spring of 2006, the aggrieved Latino community marched by the millions. Insulted by the Sensenbrenner Bill, they bonded together not only to defeat this piece of nativist legislation but also to make their own claims for a comprehensive immigration bill. A single-mother of four children, who had been in the U.S. for 17 years, came to the May 1 march in Chicago because, “every day the situation gets worse . . . they are treating us like animals, they are repudiating us, discrimination is felt more every day.” Meanwhile, a Christian reported that a serious discussion took place in his temple on whether or not the congregation should participate in the march. They searched for answers in the bible and reached the conclusion that “Jesus was an immigrant” and that Moses went to rescue the Hebrews in Egypt—“they were all immigrants.”

Pilsen’s Via Crucis procession was an importation from Mexico. This Catholic ritual has a long history, going back to the fifth century. It arrived in the Americas after the Spanish conquest. Used as a means to facilitate Christianization, it was introduced to Native People in the form of a play that was acted out on Good Friday. We don’t have a good history of this important Catholic ritual that is performed throughout towns and cities in Latin Americas on Good Friday. The largest Via Crucis in the world takes place in Iztapalapa, a former Indian pueblo that became incorporated into Mexico City. Apparently, this Via Crucis originated in 1833 after a cholera epidemic wiped out a good portion of the pueblo’s population. Today two million people attend the Via Crucis in this Mexico City borough which forms part of the world’s largest mega slum, a four million concentration of poor people.

As an importation from Mexico, Mexican immigrants were quite familiar with the Good Friday procession. They introduced it for the first time to the other Pilsen residents in 1977, mainly Tejanos and U.S.-born Mexicans. In so doing, it turned into an imported ritual that served as a link between the dead (going back centuries), the living, and the yet unborn. For one day, Good Friday, the Via Crucis has united a community that suffers, lives in fear, and has continuously been insulted. For one day, the community and Jesus shared their suffering in Pilsen.

Just like the present, the first Via Crucis started at Providence of God on Pilsen’s eastern edge and proceeded down 18th street 37 years ago. In each of Jesus’s “falls” there was a prayer and brief sermon on a major issue. Jesus “fell” carrying the cross- the weight of our sins- on 18th and Ashland. Symbolically, this was the spot where community members had months earlier stopped city busses to protest against the Chicago Transit Authority’s discrimination practices of not hiring Latino bus drivers. Jesus also “fell” on 1811 W. 17th Street, the site of the Christmas Eve fire, to symbolize the children’s death in “the cross of discrimination.”

Juan Mora-Torres. History professor at DePaul University and author of The Making of the Mexican Border.

♦ ♦ ♦

Cristo Inmigrante by Héctor Duarte. Chicago.

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