Last night was the “Grito” a party in celebration of Mexican Independence Day. Mike Rodriquez took myself and two other SSAers down to 26th Street to participate in the annual cantina crawl put on by members of the community. I’m not sure where I would rank it on experiences I’ll save on my mental hard drive for eternity, but halfway through the night, I found myself shaking my head in wonder at my good fortune.
Crammed into a corner bar on 26th and Lawndale was the entire progressive Mexican leadership of Little Village. Chewy Garcia of LVCDC and a veteran independent politician in Chicago was greeting people at the door. Jamie De Leon, the NCP organizer for Little Village was smiling more than I’ve ever seen him before. The last great hope of the Little Village Violence Prevention Collaborative was telling me he loved me. Young, 1st and 2nd generation, college educated, progressive activists were getting down to some of the best live Latin jazz I’ve heard in a long time.
And Alderman Munoz, perhaps the most progressive and independent alderman in Chicago was buying me a beer.
26th Street has always been for me the grown up and responsible older brother of 18th Street in Pilsen. It doesn’t have the trendy art galleries, bars, book stores and night life. It’s the place you go to buy groceries, clothes for your kids and have tacos. 26th Street last night was alive with the pride and strength of the Mexican immigrant community in Chicago. Cars and pick-ups filled with people waved the Mexican flag shouting and honking at each other and pedestrians. The less fortunate rode by on their bikes and rang bells or clown horns. Gang bangers donned non-color coordinated clothes and mixed into the crowd.
And in Jacaranda, the best and the brightest, the strongest hope for an end to the violence tearing the community apart and an independent small-d democratic politics in the City of Chicago were all getting down to Oye Como Va and My Cheri Amor latin style.
When you step out of your comfort zone and the fixed paths given to you by society because of your privilege, skin color or class, life is beautiful.
Viva Mexico! Viva La Villita! Viva la gente luchadora!