When migrant Latinx families permanently settled in DeKalb County, they were not formally segregated like many Blacks, but they still faced challenges and depended on a strong support network to endure. Kristina Garcia was born in Sycamore, but her parents came from Mexico in the late 1970s. They were one of the first Mexican families to move to and stay in the community. Although her family struggled by today’s standards, she recalled how neighbors and extended family helped in a variety of ways. Meals were dropped off while her mother was in the hospital recovering from surgery; friends took her to soccer and softball practice, and even paid for her fees to participate, while telling her mother that it was free.
Today, Universidad para Padres (Parent University) is an NIU program designed to guide Latinx families in navigating the local school systems. The families also learn about topics of interest such as household finance and the college application process. Parent University works with families who have children in kindergarten through high school to help parents and guardians take active roles in their own personal growth and their children’s academic success. Participants in Parent University have also become a close-knit group that can be called upon for help during times of sorrow and grief while being there to celebrate joyous occasions and life’s milestones. Araceli Lopez Zavala immigrated from Mexico. She was first a participant in the program before becoming the program coordinator. She explained, “Parent University is the platform, but the most important thing is the relationships the parents have built and the way they rely on one another. When I came to Parent University, I felt empowered because we’re there together and we share what we are going through…”
Another nonprofit that has benefited the community is Sycamore Cinco de Mayo. Founder Jesus Romero, owner of Taxco restaurant in Sycamore, began the program in 1998 as a way to share his culture and to support the community. The annual Cinco de Mayo event, featured food, music and entertainment. Funds raised were given to local nonprofit organizations. Romero served on the DeKalb County Community Foundation board for several until he moved out of state. However, he was know for often telling people: “Investing in your community is the best investment you can make in your lifetime…”
There are plans to start a Dias del Muertos event in downtown DeKalb on November 4, 2023. The goal of this event is to introduce this long standing Mexican tradition to DeKalb County. Watch for additional details.
Images courtesy of Kristina Garcia. Daily Chronicle, November 28, 2019. NIU’s Parent University helps to build community