It’s not hard to find monuments of people and events in Chicago, but very few of them were created by the people living in the communities they stand in. As part of the Chicago Monuments Project, which allocated funding from the Mellon Foundation, the Pilsen Latina Histories Monuments Project is beginning the process of creating monuments that represent a fuller spectrum of history depicted by the Latinas who lived it.
University of Illinois-Springfield professor Hinda Seif said the idea of commemorating Latina activism in Pilsen was inspired by the book “Chicanas of 18th Street: Narratives of a Movement from Latino Chicago” by Leonard G. Ramírez.
“We received two grants,” Seif said. “The first grant was to mostly do planning, but we also have a couple of temporary monuments that we’re really excited about doing. One of them is elevating and celebrating the 50th anniversary of Mujeres Latinas en Accion, a really important Latino organization that was started in 1973. We also, with funding from the University of Houston, built a digital exhibit about a street fair that Mujeres Latinas en Accion put on back in ’79. It’s Festival de Mujeres.”
The project’s lead artist, Diana Solis, was also one of the founding members of Mujeres Latinas en Accion.
“Many people today were not, are not aware of some of these incredibly important historic events that have to do with Latinas in the community,” Solis said. “I, as a documentarian photographer and former photojournalist, feel that it’s really important to have this history up at the forefront. We’re kind of like the old Gs, and people are walking on this history and have to know what it’s about. As a member of the LGBTQ community and also as a Latina and proud of my barrio, I’m really excited about being able to participate in this and make something for the city and for ourselves that will continuously engage in dialogue and … bring forth the way we feel we should be represented.”