Stories by Erica Gunderson

What Lies Ahead for COVID-19 After Omicron Peak?

(WTTW News)

We’re about to enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic. And with news that the omicron wave has passed its peak in Chicago, a light begins to appear at the end of the tunnel. But public health advocates are warning the city’s residents not to let their guards down just yet.

La DePaulia Celebrates Two Years Covering Chicago’s Latino Community

 We spoke to editor-in-chief and co-founder María Marta Guzmán and managing editor Erika Perez about the young news outlet's first two years and their hopes for the future. (WTTW News)

In January 2020, student journalists at DePaul University launched a Spanish-language platform reporting on Chicago’s Latino community, La DePaulia. We spoke to editor-in-chief and co-founder María Marta Guzmán and managing editor Erika Perez about the young news outlet’s first two years and their hopes for the future.

Creating Policy that Improves Lives of Older Adults

(WTTW News)

For Latino seniors, issues of language access, health inequities, lower incomes and documentation status can make the daily business of living even more complicated. "Latino Voices" met with an organization aiming to develop a strategic action plan for aging in Illinois. 

Caring for Children’s Mental Health Throughout Pandemic Poses Challenges to Latino Families

(WTTW News)

Throughout the pandemic, parents have expressed concern about the toll these uncertain times might be exacting on their children’s mental health. Among Latino families, who have experienced higher infection and death rates as well as more financial insecurity, those concerns are especially acute.

Working Against Wage Theft with the Office of Labor Standards

(WTTW News)

Wage theft can take many forms, from failure to pay for overtime to withholding tips. The city of Chicago estimates over $400 million are stolen from workers each year here. And Latinos and immigrants are especially at risk of wage theft. 

Win a Free Mural for Your Community from Green Arts Movement

(WTTW News)

Local youth arts organization Green Star Movement has installed murals all over the city. This year, in partnership with Amazon, Green Star is inviting Chicagoans to apply for a chance at getting a free mural created in their community.

Nonprofit Serves Up Mental Health Resources to Hospitality Workers

Mony Bunni (L) and Kristina Magro (R), the founders of Support Staff, both of whom are experienced in the hospitality industry, say they’re filling a need that has gone unaddressed for too long. (WTTW News)

The pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on the physical, emotional, and financial health of restaurant workers, especially those in the Latino community. Three years ago, a group of hospitality workers created a nonprofit aimed at getting mental health care for struggling workers.

East Side Man Starts Small Business Using Tuft Love

Juan Lopez says he can make pretty much any 2-D image into a fuzzy, fluffy floor covering. (WTTW News)

In the early days of the pandemic, many Chicagoans used social media to learn new skills and hobbies. One of them is Juan Lopez, a lifelong East Sider who used TikTok videos to teach himself a new skill that he turned into a small business last summer.

New Law for 2022 Requires Contracts for Home Workers

The Chicago Domestic Workers Contract Mandate covers jobs like nannies, home care workers, and home cleaners. It requires their employers to give them a written contract with mutually agreed-upon terms. (WTTW News)

The Chicago Domestic Workers Contract Mandate covers jobs like nannies, home care workers, and home cleaners. It requires their employers to give them a written contract with mutually agreed-upon terms.

CPS Parents on School COVID-19 Safety Standoff

 Students briefly returned to class for the first two days of this week, but since Wednesday, classes have been outright canceled as teachers refused to work in person and CPS refuses to go remote, leaving families in limbo once again. (WTTW News)

 Students briefly returned to class for the first two days of this week, but since Wednesday, classes have been outright canceled as teachers refused to work in person and CPS refuses to go remote, leaving families in limbo once again.

Fourth-Generation Family Business Fries Up a Chicago Classic for More than 40 Years

Once they were satisfied with the filling’s flavor and folding process, Iltaco added the pizza puff to its lineup in 1976 and it took off from there. (WTTW News)

From saganaki to the jibarito, Chicago’s blend of cultures has resulted in a long and delicious list of culinary innovations. One particular Chicago food favorite started with an Assyrian family who folded together Italian and Mexican ingredients to create a hot dog stand staple.

Local Woman Reconnects With Departed Father Through Rediscovered Photos

A local woman sees a new image of her father through his long-lost street photography. (Courtesy Joan Tortorici Ruppert)

Local television producer and writer Joan Tortorici Ruppert lost her father as a young child. But through a collection of rediscovered photo negatives, she’s getting to know who he was before he was her father and getting a glimpse into Chicago history too. 

Ravenswood Artists Show There’s No Place Like Home in Chicago

Katie Lauffenburger paints a ceramic home inspired by Chicago architecture. (WTTW News)

Our city’s towering skyline gets all the press, but for the husband-and-wife artist duo behind Wonder City Studio, it’s the vernacular styles that make Chicago a place worth calling home.

Vintage Shops Get Up to Thrifty Business in Logan Square

At Vintage Frills, Jennifer Kelly says she’s always looking for the items from the 1990s and 2000s she says are on trend with millennials and Gen Z kids. (WTTW News)

Resale is a multi-billion dollar industry and shopping secondhand is growing in popularity as an affordable and eco-friendly way for young fashionistas to carve out a style niche for themselves. Two shops in Logan Square are hoping they can capitalize on that trend.

Las Posadas: On the Road to Bethlehem in Buena Park

St. Mary of the Lake parishioners depart the church on the first night of Las Posadas, Dec 16, 2021. (Credit: Erica Gunderson)

Parishioners of St. Mary of the Lake Catholic Church are observing Las Posadas. It’s a Catholic tradition that commemorates the journey Joseph and Mary made seeking refuge where Mary could give birth to the Christ child. The parish adapted the tradition with a procession through the church’s neighborhood.

Agricultural Labor Trafficking Growing Problem in Illinois

he nature of farm work and the structure of our nation’s migrant labor program make the people who perform long hours of labor in Illinois’ over 72 million farms vulnerable to abuse. (WTTW News)
In Illinois, farming is big business. The Illinois Farm Bureau estimates that Illinois’ agriculture industry and related activity contribute more than $50 billion to the state’s economy. But the nature of farm work and the structure of our nation’s migrant labor program make the people who perform long hours of labor in Illinois’ over 72 million farms vulnerable to abuse.

Shop at the Pop-ups for Last-Minute Artisan Gifts

On the Magnificent Mile, Belmont-Cragin small business Colores Mexicanos offers handmade artisan items from states all across Mexico through the end of December. (WTTW News)

If you’ve still got a few names to cross off your holiday gift list, you’re not alone. There’s still plenty of time to find handmade gifts that do good for artists and artisans not only in Chicago but also in countries all over the world.

La Ultima Palabra on Diverse Perspectives in Conservation

As part of our Last Word series, the Illinois Nature Conservancy’s community outreach team gives “La Última Palabra” on how they say bringing diverse perspectives to conservation can bring about a natural change. (WTTW News)

In Chicago, predominantly Latino communities often bear the environmental burden of heavy industry, and residents of those communities say they have a hard time making their concerns heard.

Tips for Grads to Find Lucrative, Fulfilling Careers

According to a study by UnidosUS, there are 3.4 million Latinos enrolled in postsecondary institutions today, making up 20% of students across the country. (WTTW News)

The majority of Latinos entering higher education are the first in their families to attend college. This means they don't always have access to mentors or role models in their community to help usher them into professional careers. 

Managing Depression in the Holiday Season

The holiday season is a joyous time for many, but for others, this time of year can bring feelings of sadness, isolation and anxiety.  (WTTW News)

It’s the time of year that Latino families across the country get their homes, churches and communities ready for holiday celebrations. This season is a joyous time for many, but for some, holiday gatherings can bring feelings of sadness, isolation, and anxiety.

The ‘Cuban Comet’ Slides Into Baseball’s Hall of Fame

Minnie Minoso Autograph on a 1960 Topps (#365)

Minnie Miñoso, “the Cuban Comet” broke the color line for the White Sox when he joined the team in 1951. He was selected for induction by the Golden Days Era committee on Sunday, and University of Illinois professor Adrian Burgos Jr says, it’s an honor that was long overdue.

Chico’s Oven Brings Bolillo Back to The Bush

From 1977 to 1994, Jorge Perez Jr. – better known as Chico – learned the ins and outs of running family’s neighborhood grocery store and bakery. (Courtesy Jorge Perez Jr.)

Southeast Side native Jorge “Chico” Perez says there’s plenty of dough to be made in his neighborhood. He’s using the bakery his parents closed in 1994 — and the recipes his father taught him — to do it.

La Ultima Palabra on Building Sustainability

Alicia Ponce is an architect and one of the founding members of Arquitina, a professional leadership and licensure initiative that supports Latinas in architecture and encourages Latinas to join the industry. (WTTW News)

Alicia Ponce is an architect and one of the founding members of Arquitina, a professional leadership and licensure initiative that supports Latinas in architecture and encourages Latinas to join the industry.

How the Wards Get Their Shapes and Why You Should Care: A Voices Crossover Conversation

After the 2020 census revealed the city’s changing racial makeup , it’s ward remapping season once more in Chicago. (WTTW News)

A 5% uptick in the Latino population, a whopping 30% increase in the Asian population, and a 10% decrease in the Black population have translated into factions fighting for wards mapped to maintain racial majorities and all but ensure proportionate racial representation.

Modern and Traditional Mix at Mestiza Shop in Pilsen

The Mestiza Shop on 18th Street offers wares made by local artists as well as imported goods. The items range from the traditional to the quirky – but all with a distinctively Latina accent. (WTTW News)

The Mestiza Shop on 18th Street offers wares made by local artists as well as imported goods. The items range from the traditional to the quirky – but all with a distinctively Latina accent.

Speaking Spanglish: How to Reach America’s $1.7 Trillion Latino Consumer Market

America’s Latinos spend an estimated $1.7 trillion annually, but the Hispanic Marketing Council says only 6% of overall industry investment is spent targeting the Latino community. (WTTW News)

Latinos now make up 19% of the country's population, and half of them are under age 29. And while America’s Latinos spend an estimated $1.7 trillion annually, the Hispanic Marketing Council says only 6% of overall industry investment is spent targeting the Latino community.