Chicago Gang History

Hermosa

NameHermosa
LocationBelmont Avenue on the north, Bloomingdale Avenue (or railroad tracks) on the south, Pulaski Road on the east, Kenton Avenue on the west
Settled1880s
FounderN/A
Year annexed1889

The area of Hermosa was a vastly barren and unsettled wooded area during the majority part of the 19th century unlike its neighboring communities around.  The first part of civilization was a railroad stop that was placed in 1875; however, it did not stop there very often.  It was not until the early 1880s that Scottish, German and Swedish immigrants began taking up residence in the area.  Soon multiple manufacturing plants were built in the area and the train stop came here regularly.  The area was called “Kelvyn Grove” by the immigrants.  In the year 1889 the area was fit to be annexed into the city of Chicago and was given the new name “Hermosa.”  After the annexation the first official subdivision was built called “Garfield” which catered to the many workers near the various factories.  By the 1910s decade Polish, Irish and Italian immigrants arrived in the neighborhood as more housing was put up.  The neighborhood stopped growing in the 1930s due to the Great Depression era; however, the area did not fall into despair.  In the 1970s decade Puerto Rican migration came to Hermosa much to the objection of many white residents; this encouraged the arrival of the notorious Gaylords street gang that came to assist the Young Freaks street gang (now known as the Stoned Freaks).  The Young Freaks were a hippy group that started in 1967 in Kelvyn Park, but when the neighborhood began to see the arrival of Puerto Ricans, gangs like Spanish Cobras, Latin Kings and Imperial Gangsters migrated into Hermosa.  Spanish Cobras and Imperial Gangsters gave trouble to the Freaks which resulted in them becoming a street gang in 1971.  The Gaylords and Freaks teamed up in the 1970s to battle Cobras and Gangsters, while the Gaylords also battled the Latin Kings, the Freaks stayed out of that conflict due a friendship with Latin Kings.  By the year 1980 Hemosa was now 31% Latino due to white flight.  The 1980s would bring Mexican migration as well into Hermosa as poorer Latinos found the areas’ properties cheap to purchase or rent due to the decline of manufacturing in the area and job loss.  Gang violence and drug problems soon plagued this community as residents fought back by creating community watch programs like the “Kelvyn-Ken-Wel Community Organization” that fought against the rise in subsidized housing and drug dealing in the community.  Residents began nightly street patrols watching out for gang and drug activity, ironically, the Gaylords were a part of this neighborhood watch program and patrolled the streets at night as well because they did not partake in the drug trade.  The effort of the white street gangs to keep the neighborhood from becoming Latino failed as Hermosa became 68% Latino by 1990 then 84% Latino by 2000.  Neighborhood community watch programs also fought a losing battle in the 1980s as gang and drug problems got worse by the 1990s and more gangs rooted themselves into the community like the Maniac Latin Disciples and Latin Eagles.  Hermosa is still a neighborhood with higher crime and heavier gang activity.

Published: Updated: