Photo by Daniela Jurado
When people hear the name Little Village, the Chicago neighborhood where I live, I can read the expression on their faces. It tells me that they have probably heard that Little Village is a bad area. They automatically assume that if they come to my community they are going to get shot as soon as they set foot there.
It is not like that at all. Western, Ogden and Kostner avenues and I-55 on the southwest side of Chicago, near South Lawndale, bound my community. It is home to all sorts: gangbangers, artists, skaters, drug users, drug sellers and a great number of hard-working people. Many of them work in factories, some own small businesses, some are mechanics; there’s a bit of everything in La Villita.
There aren’t a lot of recreational activities for teens and that is a big issue in the neighborhood. The gang problem goes hand in hand with the fact that teens don't have anything constructive to do. Being a gang member gives them something to do and we know that's not a very positive alternative. In Little Village, there is a group of skaters and artists who are doing good things and are role models who represent an alternative to gangs.
On a sunny day, I enjoy just hanging out in my neighborhood and doing positive things with my friends. I love to take walks. I can walk for hours. And I feel safe walking because I know everyone in my neighborhood. I am a student at Farragut Career Academy, which is just a few blocks from my house.
Little Village accommodates all its 100,000 people in different ways. It’s a very comfortable place to live. You can find little stores that sell fruits and vegetables and other shops that have anything else you need. Churches also give out food and everyone has access to it.
What Little Village doesn’t provide its residents with is open space. We only have one park, Piotrowski Park, and many of the youth can’t spend time there because of gang borderlines. Community residents do make their homes beautiful with flowers in their yards.
The people are full of energy, whether they are arguing or laughing. On a nice summer day, it’s a party. Everyone is out. You hear music playing everywhere, from cars, stores and houses.
Little Village may seem like a big community, but really it’s just a big home.