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Table of Contents > Chapter 7

Lower West Side (continued)

In Little Village, the community's main event is the annual Mexican Independence Day Parade (September 16), which wends its way down 26th Street from Sacramento to Kildare. Sponsored by the 26th Street Businessmen's Association, the parade is a testament to the thriving Mexican-American community once known as South Lawndale.
Every year Pilsen residents continue a centuries-old ritual known as the Via Crucis, the Way of the Cross. On Good Friday, Mexican Catholics reenact the Last Supper of Jesus Christ at Providence of God Church at 18th and Union. Following a mock trial, the crowd follows "Christ" as he carries his cross along 18th Street to Harrison Park where he is "crucified." The body of "Christ" is then carried on a bier to St. Adalbert Church where the ceremony concludes. Unlike any other celebration, the Via Crucis symbolizes the suffering endured by local families as they struggle for economic survival in the city.

One of the most significant developments to occur on the Lower West Side in the past decade is a new spirit of cooperation among local Catholic churches and community groups. Once divided along ethnic lines, parishes in Pilsen, Heart of Chicago, and Little Village have pooled their resources to combat gangs and address the problems of Hispanic youth. In addition to supporting parochial schools, local parishes have waged a spirited campaign to establish the Pilsen Catholic Youth Center. This project is aimed at providing Hispanic youngsters with academic support, social activities, and religious guidance. On September 10, 1984, more than 1,200 residents braved the rain to show their support for the Youth Center, and they cheered young men and women as they marched along 18th Street.

The future of Pilsen as a Mexican community seems assured. And it is likely that as Mexican families move up the economic ladder, they too will follow the path taken by earlier Bohemian, Polish, and Mexican-Americans who moved to the "suburbs" of Heart of Chicago and Little Village and beyond.

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