Resisting Cycles of Environmental Injustice in La Villita

Exhibition Open
The Chicago chapter is currently online only. Explore the project tiles on the Chicago page to see and hear their stories.

2018: La Villita’s Nuestra Historia mural shows community history, cultural pride, and activism.

Courtesy of J. Weller and P. Morales Fuentes, UIC.

1987: The Crawford Generating Station closed in 2012 due to local grassroots activism.
 
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1987: The Crawford Generating Station closed in 2012 due to local grassroots activism.

Courtesy of Library of Congress.

 
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2018: Hurricane Willa caused many residents of Minatitlán, Mexico to relocate to the US.

Courtesy of Angel Hernandez/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock.

The Problem
The Roots
The Solutions

Living in Chicago’s 3rd largest industrial corridor, La Villita residents face systematic environmental racism worsened by corrupt politicians and corporations who prioritize profit over people’s well-being. Policing, criminalization of migrants, and land use for incarceration reveal how environmental injustice and immigration intersect in La Villita.

In the 1990s, the frequency of dramatic climate events and start of NAFTA increased the influx of migrants across Central America, Mexico, and the U.S. Settling in La Villita, immigrants confront toxic environments due to old zoning laws and discrimination linked to 19th century policing to protect industrialist interests.

Activists and scholars recognize social inequality as a major factor restricting climate change adaptation and forcing migration. In La Villita, campaigns like “Fight for the Right to Breathe,” youth development programs, community pride and resistance, along with environment-friendly practices are improving community life.

2017: Farmers in favor of leaving the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico City, Mexico.
2019: La Villita Arch welcomes all to 26th Street, a thriving two-mile-long commercial corridor.
2018: Community members respond to a question during a story circle interview at Alianza Americas.
2019: Living in an industrial corridor means sharing the road with trucks every day in La Villita.
2019: Toxic waterways like the Collateral Canal in La Villita pose a threat to the community.
2018: Im/Migration posters in La Villita are a reminder of rights and policing realities.
2019: Cook County Jail alongside La Villita Park, a reminder of spatial inequality and policing.
2019: Journey through Zapata Academy and Unilever Best Foods
2019: Journey to the Crawford Generating Station, Industrial Corridor
2017: Farmers in favor of leaving the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico City, Mexico.
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 2017: Farmers in favor of leaving the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico City, Mexico.

Mario Guzman, ​EPA/​Shutterstock.

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2019: Journey through 26th Street shopping corridor

Courtesy of M.Insalata, UIC.

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2019: Journey to collecting first voice experiences with Alianza Americas

Courtesy of M.Insalata, UIC.

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2019: Living in an industrial corridor means sharing the road with trucks every day in La Villita.

Courtesy of L. Cabrales and K. Solis, UIC.

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2019: Journey to the Collateral Channel in the Industrial Corridor

Courtesy of M.Insalata, UIC.

2018: Im/Migration posters in La Villita are a reminder of rights and policing realities.
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 2018: Im/Migration posters in La Villita are a reminder of rights and policing realities.

Courtesy of J. Weller, UIC.

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2019: Journey to La Villita Park, adjacent to Cook County Jail

Courtesy of M.Insalata, UIC.

Additional Media

2019: La Villita’s 70,000 residents, mostly Latinx, live by major hazardous landmarks.

Courtesy of S. Lynn and P. Morales Fuentes, UIC.

Additional Media

2019: Journey through Zapata Academy and Unilever Best Foods

Courtesy of M.Insalata, UIC.

Additional Media

2019: Journey through LVEJO’s Semillas de Justicia Garden

Courtesy of M.Insalata, UIC.

Additional Media

2019: Journey to the Crawford Generating Station, Industrial Corridor

Courtesy of M.Insalata, UIC.

Our Point of View

University Partners
Community Partners

During our yearlong course, we learned that environmental injustice is more than pollution. It involves social issues like immigration, policing, and economic inequities that favor the corporate elite. Our class of social justice newcomers, advocates, and activists come from across Chicagoland, including areas near industrial corridors. These diverse perspectives allowed us to listen critically and make connections with our community partners as we discovered the culturally based approaches they use to resist environmental discrimination.

—University of Illinois at Chicago

Few people will say they migrated due to climate change. But push a little harder and you hear many stories about drought, failed crops, devastating storms driving people to relocate to cities, where they encounter violence in many forms. Once living in the US, the deadly mix of environmental, economic and social injustices often repeats—via toxic exposure and gentrification. Alianza Americas works across borders on issues that affect immigrant communities. We joined this project to go deeper into the systemic environmental injustices faced by our members and the actions they take to fight back.

—Alianza Americas

Contributors

University Partners

University of Illinois at Chicago

Faculty Project Director Dr. Rosa M. Cabrera
MUSE Course Students Monika Alvarado Luis Cabrales Pamela Morales Fuentes Margaret Halquist Matthew Insalata Lauren De Jesus Stephanie Lynn Erin McCauley Misha Neal Matthew Scherer Karla Solis Jacqueline Valdez Raquel Flecha Vega Emmelly Villagran Jessica Weller

Community Partners

Alianza Americas

Zorayda Avila
Yanitza Carmona y Correa
Amy Shannon

Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO)

Antonio Lopez, Ph.D.
Kimberly Wasserman

Local Supporters

Rafael Cintrón Ortiz Latino Cultural Center, University of Illinois at Chicago
Museum and Exhibition Studies (MUSE), University of Illinois at Chicago