CHICAGO (WLS) -- Our Chicago: Nuestras Historias is a special devoted to telling the stories of the Windy City's vibrant Latino communities. In this Hispanic Heritage Month episode, we introduce you to one of the city's most accomplished muralists.. and to a foodie favorite on the late-night bar scene. You'll also meet a big Chicago family with big musical dreams and see how one dog lover is making a difference in the lives of lots of -older- canines, just looking for a good home.
Claudio Velez immigrated from Acapulco, Mexico, with the hope of owning his own restaurant one day. He earned his nickname, The Tamale Guy, by roving from bar to bar with his red, plastic coolers... selling his homemade tamales. And just before the pandemic, he managed to start a restaurant but was subsequently forced out. After surviving a one-month hospitalization with COVID-19, Velez is now re-launching his business, using the Bangers and Lace Kitchen, with the help of his son.
Bangers and Lace
1670 West Division St.
Musical talent runs deep in Chicago's Lucero family. Led by father, Juan Lucero...with 7 children ranging in age from 7 to 18, this modern Mariachi group rose to fame on Nickelodeon's show, "America's Most Musical family." They've also entertained the crowds at local restaurants, festivals, a Chicago Fire game and a Chicago Bulls game. When the pandemic halted their ability to perform live, the family was facing eviction... but a neighbor launched a GoFundMe that raised tens of thousands of dollars and enabled the Luceros to remain in their house.
Cielito Lindo Family Music
Joseph Perez.. also known as Sentrock... is one of the top "working" muralists in the Windy City today. He's been commissioned by Converse to help design shoes, Sentrock has even been enlisted by the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Fire MLS team.. to create artwork to adorn their merchandise. Sentrock's work featuring his trademark "Bird City Saint" can be spotted on literally dozens of street corners around the City. But Sentrock also takes the time to share his talents with aspiring, young artists. For several years, Sentrock has helped teach mural arts classes to students at Yollocalli Arts Reach. Sentrock came to Chicago from his native Phoenix, to attend the School of the Art Institute nearly a decade ago and became so enamored with the rich cultural heritage, he found in our neighborhoods, that he settled in Pilsen.
All Star Press
2775 N Milwaukee
As students settle back into the classroom, many are left trying to play "catch-up" after the pandemic disrupted months of learning. One group hoping to help students get back into that all-important routine... is Cicero's Corazon Community Services. While they were shuttered for a short time during the pandemic, they've resumed their programming to help area youth. Corazon offers after-school educational activities, workshops, tutoring, homework help and even access to free wifi and computers. Corazon also offers programs addressing health and safety issues... and violence prevention.
Anabelle Martinez is the owner and director of a whole new concept in tutoring. She felt strongly that her Maestri tutoring centers in Berwyn and Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, needed to offer services to students in Spanish -and- English. Maestri is the only such bilingual tutoring center in the Windy City.
Corazon Community Services
5339 West 25th
1858 S. Throop
Karina Reyes was a psychology professor at UIC for 30 years but a quiet retirement just wasn't in the cards for her, when she left the classroom. During the pandemic, she teamed up with her good friend, Miriam Gardner-Ryan... to try and help the "mature" dogs, who needed good homes. Their pandemic "pivot" turned into Citizen Canine Senior Dog Rescue. They take in dogs older than 6 years old, whose owners have oftentimes passed away or become too ill to properly care for the animal. Citizen Canine doesn't have a brick and mortar shelter but instead, it relies on the hospitality of families willing to foster the dogs. The dogs remain with the foster families until Reyes and Gardner-Ryan find the "perfect match." Citizen Canine posts write-ups about all of their available dogs on their website and on social media channels. While they've only been operating for a little more than 6 months, they've helped 14 "Senior" Dogs... to find their "forever homes."
Angelica Varela's grandmother sparked Angelica's interest in house plants and plant-based medicine. So when Angelica was laid-off amid the pandemic, she took inspiration from that hobby and opened up her passion project in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. It is called Semillas Plant Studio! Semillas means "seeds" in Spanish. The name is a "nod" to a business that is both rooted in Varela's Mexican heritage and dedicated to giving back to the community. In fact, Varela collaborates with various artists and entrepreneurs and allows them to sell their goods in the plant studio... thus, giving them a place to plant their own "semillas" in the community!
Semillas Plant Studio
1425 W. 18th St