Puerto Rican people started to come to Chicago in the 1930’s, and there is still a vibrant Puerto Rican culture here today.  According to a report prepared by Puerto Rican Agenda, most Puerto Ricans in Chicago live in Logan Square, Hermosa, Humboldt Park, Belmont, Cragin, West Town, Avondale, and Portage Park.  11% – 38% of residents in these areas are Puerto Rican.

As with many immigrant minorities, Puerto Ricans in Chicago have faced a language barrier, poverty, racism, and struggles with housing.  Following the lead of African-American civil rights activists, Puerto Rican community groups began forming to work for better conditions.  One of these groups was LADO: Latin American Defense Organization.  In 1969, five of their members joined Studs in the studio to talk about their mission and what they had accomplished so far.  These five were Obed López, Martha Sanchez, Daniel Meléndez, Olga Pedroza, and Georgina Novarra.

At the start of the program, Mr. López introduces LADO and tells Studs how it came about.  Mr. Meléndez talks about some of the difficulties faced by the Puerto Rican community in Chicago.

In this clip, Mr. López describes LADO as “an organization the people themselves have created,”  which he believes to be as important as anything the organization has specifically accomplished.  Mr. Meléndez goes on to talk about what was “left behind” in Puerto Rico, and also about the places he sees the city administration failing the Puerto Rican community.

According to the article written by Clara López, Obed’s daughter, LADO’s fourth principle of action was “in the absence of any mechanism to resolve our legitimate grievances, we believe in the right to direct action.”  In this clip, we hear about problems that Mrs. Sanchez had with the Welfare office, and the direct actions that were taken by LADO to help her.

Mr. López and Mrs. Novarra talk about the differences between life in Chicago and life in Puerto Rico.  Studs brings up the common invective, “go back where you came from,” which leads Mr. Meléndez talks about what motivates Puerto Ricans to come to Chicago.

It might surprise relative newcomers to Chicago to learn that Wicker Park, Noble Square, and Lincoln Park were once Puerto Rican communities.  Ms. Pedroza talks about the housing problems within the community, and tells about a successful rent strike.  Mr. Meléndez points out that another obstacle to finding good housing is racist rental practices, and cites his own mother’s experience as an example.

To learn more, check out the Puerto Rican Cultural Center here in Chicago. This report also provides a great deal of information on Puerto Ricans in Chicago. For more information on LADO, check out this article written by Clara López, Obed’s daughter.

Image Credit: By Darwinek [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

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