25 Signs You Grew Up Latino in (And Near) Chicago

It is not until you travel to another city, that you realize that growing up in Chicago (pronounced SheCAAAAgo) may be a bit different than the rest of the U.S. Parking spots were saved with chairs, (whether or not there was snow on the ground) and summertime festivals were and still are the highlight of the year. Even then, growing up Latino in Chicago was a whole different ballgame.

Here are 25 surefire ways to tell you are Latino growing up in the Windy City. 

1. paletero

In the summer there is no sweeter sound than that of an ice cream truck, unless you are Latino. The bells on the paletero's cart is like heaven to a Latino kid's ears.

2. Biking

Sure your friends can ride their bikes to the park but Mami made it very clear that you can only ride your bike from the first tree to the one three houses down. And do not try to go past it, Mami is always watching.

3. Street lights

Finally you taste freedom and you are out with your friends around the neighborhood. There were no cell phones and if there was, you didn't have one, but you knew that once the street lights came on, you better be on your front stoop. Your friends are more than welcomed to join you but if you a Latina, don't even think about letting Miguel hang out after dark.

4. Father’s Day

Father’s Day is a very important day for all families but if your are Latino in Chicago -- specifically Puerto Rican -- you also know that it is the last day of the Puerto Rican festivities. You better believe Papi has set up his chair to the left of the main stage early this morning and will be there until the end.

5. band

Music is a huge part of this city and the Latino culture. You couldn't hear a great song without one of your parents or both busting out a dance routine in the middle of the street or worse, pull out all of their instruments outside to join “the band” despite their lack of talent.

6. Pilsen

You know you've made it to Pilsen with your eyes closed by the smell. The tortillas from Nuevo Leon are second to none, and Mexicans living even as far as the Northwest suburbs travel south for a little taste of home.

7. Great America

Going to Great America is a great childhood memory. The rides, the pop (no, it’s not soda, it’s pop!) and the cotton candy...oh, not if you are Latino. Mami would bring her ollas and leave them in the trunk. Concession food? Olividate.

8. Elote

Going to El Mercado was the highlight of the week. If you were good, you'd get an elote, covered in mayo, cheese, butter, and tajin. The Mexican version of corn on the cob.

9. dominoes

It is important for children to get a good night's rest and that means going to bed at a decent hour. Unless of course, your compadres invite you over for dominoes on a Saturday night, then it is okay to keep them out until 1am because estamos entre familia.

10. tv

You didn't have cable because it was too expensive, but you had a fancy wooden framed television box set from Zenith. This usually was bought at discount thanks to that one family member that worked in the factory in Melrose Park.

11. Mix tape

You've had at least one guy (or girl) make you a mix tape on cassette and it had all your favorite love songs including "Spring Love". Usually it was recorded from a late night radio mix by Julian Jumping Perez.

12. House music

Speaking of music...House music all night long.

13. Weather

No one can handle cold weather like a Chicagoan, but even if it’s a hot summer night, temps dipping below 80 degrees at night means wearing socks and a sweater because, well, Latinos.

14. Quince

The dance for your quince was profesionally choreographed by one of the dancers in the youth dance troupes. And yes, you can flip with your can can on.

15. Ice cream

Baskin Robbins? Not for Latinos. The same Mexican lady has been selling coconut ice cream in front of Armitage produce for years. There is nothing like homemade ice cream in a dixie cup.

16. BBQ

It isn't a BBQ unless someone brings a huge pot of arroz con gandules. If you host one yourself and decide to skip the rice, watch out. Next time you want to host Labor Day at your casa, your Tia will be the first to protest.

17. cousins

Everyone has a cousin Mari, a Yary, or a Junito in their family.

18. Snow

Everyone is dying to come for a visit because they have never seen snow. When they do, they stay inside and talk about how crazy you are to live here. This is usually in late October and it is still Fall, meaning no snow and no freezing temps. Ay! 

19. El rancho

Your “summer vacation” was heading to “El Rancho” to visit your grandparents.

20. Funeral

Even funerals were a big deal. Your uncle's boss' wife's cousin twice removed just passed and you have to go and give your respect. Bonus points if you stayed for chocolate caliente and quesito.

21. La Pasadita

We didn't have breakfast at Denny's. After a long night out and your stomach was begging you for pancakes, you strolled over to La Pasadita. Tacos always taste better at 3am.

22. hydrant

No one on your block owned a pool and the summers got pretty hot so it was always a good time to crack open the fire hydrant. And depending on the neighborhood, the firemen would give you at least another 5 mins of fun before shutting it down.

23. jordans

You can “Step” and you can “Salsa”.... in Jordans.

24. guests

It is important to have a few essentials stocked in your kitchen in case guests show up unannounced. A great hostess always has Bustelo coffee, crackers, cheese, and pasta de guyaba.

25. Chicago

But most of all, you knew grewing up in Chicago was amazing because it was the city you and your familia called home.