Little Village, which roughly shares the boundaries of the Chicago Community Area of South Lawndale, is located east of Western Avenue, west of Cicero Avenue, north of I55 and south of the BNSF train line. It is one of the densest communities in Chicago, with a population of almost 75,000 and about 17,000 residents per square mile. This adds to the community’s vibrancy and prosperity, especially in the service and business sectors, and leaves relatively few housing or commercial vacancies. However, high density leads to crowding within housing structures, individual households and schools, and limits opportunities for new construction and development of green space. Little Village also has a very young population, with 29% of the community under the age of 18 and 8% under five. The young population creates a high demand for schools, services and park space (ENLACEChicago, 2020)
COVID-19 has had a severe impact on the Little Village neighborhood, which is 84% Latinx (U.S. Census Bureau, 2018). For the past several weeks, the Little Village zip code 60623 has had one of the highest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases of any zip code in the state of Illinois (Illinois Department of Public Health, 2020). Many of those who contracted the virus were essential workers who got sick at their workplace and then unknowingly spread it to their families at home (Chicago Department of Public Health, 2020). The neighborhood has also been hit hard economically during the pandemic. While there are a large number of essential workers living in the community, most of whom are still low-wage earners, many others in Little Village have lost their jobs or had their hours reduced. Furthermore, with an estimated 25% of community residents being undocumented and many more being in mixed immigration status families, these individuals and families were excluded from receiving the federal government’s economic relief checks. Little Village experiences a lot of health-related challenges, which have also negatively impacted Little Village families during the pandemic. Many residents lack access to healthcare; 28% of Little Village residents are uninsured, including 44% of those between the ages of 18 and 64 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2018). As a result of these difficulties accessing care, 44% of adults report fair or poor health (Sinai Urban Health Institute [SUHI], 2017). Prior to the pandemic, 45% of households in Little Village were food insecure (SUHI, 2017), with many residents lacking sufficient income to adequately feed themselves and their families. This challenge has been exacerbated by the pandemic since many families have since experienced a loss in income. The high levels of food insecurity limit Little Village families’ access to healthy food, increasing their risk for a wide range of chronic diseases, which also increases their risk for complications or death if they become ill with COVID-19.
More than ever, initiatives like the Mercado de Colores of Little Village are needed. An initiative that provides access to healthy and agro-ecological goods and focuses on strengthening economic independence, family unity, dignified work, health and environmental awareness, in a fair, honest, safe and sustainable way, with the purpose of improving the quality of life of families.