While West Side neighborhoods such as Pilsen and Little Village have historically been the main entry points for Mexican immigrants in Chicago, nowadays, Latinos from abroad are increasingly settling in Gage Park. The Southwest Side neighborhood has seen an influx of new residents in recent years, bolstering a community that’s been hard hit by recession and a foreclosure crisis.
Mark Webber grew up working at his grandfather’s flower shop, Kloeckner Preferred Flowers, which opened in 1934 in the Back of the Yards. The shop moved to Gage Park in 1972. “When I first moved in it was a typical Irish neighborhood. After 40 years of being here, I’ve seen the neighborhood gentrify and become a very viable Hispanic neighborhood” he said. “We were all immigrants here at one time.”
Azucena Hernandez works at Scelebration, a dress shop in Gage Park that specializes in Quinceañera and wedding dresses. “The neighborhood is changing. You can see more security and police officers around,” Hernandez, who has lived in the neighborhood for 12 years, said. “Things are getting better, but many people fear to come down here.”
Brian Sanchez, 20, plays soccer with his friend in Gage Park. He moved to Chicago three years ago from Colombia and just started working for Comcast, where his mother works, and plans to study broadcasting. The soccer field at Gage Park is an extremely popular location in the neighborhood when it gets warm. Competition for field time is intense, with a long wait list to form or join a team, since it is a location where the National Soccer League of Chicago holds games.
The Virgen de Guadalupe is a common sight in Catholic Latino neighborhoods like Gage Park. Metegildi Uribe, who recently moved to Chicago from Mexico, was selling a figurine of the Virgen de Guadalupe on a table in front of his house on California Street.
St. Gall Church was built in 1899, when Gage Park was primarily populated by German Catholic farmers. It is still the main parish to serve the neighborhood which continues to be majority Catholic. Hundreds gathered here in February for the funeral services of the Martinez family, who were found murdered in their home.
Six crosses are on the walkway to the Gage Park bungalow where a family of six was found murdered on Feb. 11, 2016. The murder, which is still being investigated, is one of the worst crimes that has happened in neighborhood.
In 1972, white parents boycotted Gage Park High School for 10 weeks in opposition to integration. Today, the school is 55 percent Latino and 42 percent African-American. Although Gage Park has a dense population, the school is suffering from under-enrollment, with only 366 students this school year.
La Hacienda is one of a few grocery stores in Gage Park that specializes in Latino foods and goods.
Cesar Cortino and his son Alonzo Cortino, 2, wait to get their hair cut at Classicman Barbershop on February 27. Cesar grew up in Gage Park and recently moved his family back to the neighborhood from Bridgeport. “I want him to know where I grew up. It can be rough but there’s more family here,” he said.