South Lawndale: Little Village

Origins Settled c. 1827 and annexed c. 1889
Area West Side

Ogden Avenue on the north, railroad tracked along 33rd Street on the south, Western Avenue on the east, railroad tracks on the west; Little Village: Ogden Avenue on the north, railroad tracked along 33rd Street on the south, Kedzie Avenue on the east, railroad tracks on the west.

Gangs founded Two Six, Sin City Boys, Ridgeway Lords, Latin Kings, Gaylords,
Gangs headquartered Two Six, Latin Kings,

This area was first settled in 1827 as the largest part of the Lawndale-Crawford settlement; from there many farms were built in the area.

In the year 1863 the expansion of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroads caused Lawndale and Crawford to become separate communities with Lawndale on the north and this area became Crawford.  After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 many German, Irish, Dutch and Scottish immigrants fled to this area to start a new life far outside from the woes of the inner city.

In 1873 McCormick Reaper Works built their brand new facility in South Lawndale right after the fire of 1871 and this made the area even more attractive to immigrants looking for housing near employment.  The area was annexed in 1889 during the major annexation plan of 1889 and the area was renamed “South Lawndale.”

The area remained mostly farmland until the 1900s decade when Western Electric’s Hawthorne Works was built in nearby Cicero and the Sears Roebuck tower was constructed in neighboring North Lawndale.  Now new subdivisions were laid out while Czechoslovakians began moving in large numbers to the community as Irish, Dutch and Scottish began moving out.

In the 1940s decade the Czechs were joined by a large influx of Polish immigrants that were lured in by the many manufacturing jobs in the area and now Germans, Czechs and Polish dominated the area.

In the year 1942 the Chicago Housing Authority built the Lawndale Gardens public housing project in order to house impoverished white residents that were employed to help with the war effort but too poor to afford housing.  These projects were built between 25th and 26th Streets and between California Avenue and Washtenaw Avenue.

In the early 1950s a smaller influx of African Americans moved into the neighborhood especially in the Lawndale Gardens projects which sparked some outrage in the community.  The youths reacted by bringing in outside gangs to the streets of the Little Village section.  In the year 1950 the Outlaws Motorcycle Club came to Little Village at the intersection of 25th Street and Rockwell.  The Gay Lords greaser gang opened up a faction close by at 24th and Whipple in 1952.  Both clubs were concerned about African Americans moving in but their attention soon turned more toward each other as they fought vicious gang brawls, one of those brawls made the newspaper in March of 1954.  The Gay lords eventually dominated a very large area from about 21st Street to 26th Street and also in Harrison High School by the late 1950s.  The Outlaws MC did not claim territory they just roamed wherever they pleased and did not care about any Gay Lord turf which caused more animosity.

In the year 1959 Mexican families were displaced from the Near West Side neighborhood as they moved into South Lawndale and the Lower West Side neighborhoods.  Mexican families mainly settled near 26th Street when they first arrived.  Mexican youths were soon met by hostile white gangs like the Outlaws and Gay Lords which forced them to start neighborhood gangs for protection.

In the year 1963 one of the first Mexican street gangs formed in this community called the MarKings, founded by “White Sal.”  The MarKings were formed for the purpose of battling greaser gang bullies that attacked Mexican youths as they made their way across town, got on the school bus or took their lunch money at school.  The MarKings started at the intersection of 24th Street and Marshall Boulevard and they named their territory “The Boulevards.”

In the year 1964, the Imperials street gang leader from Wicker Park visited the MarKings and discovered they had something in common.  They had the same symbols and both groups dealt with bullies.  The leader of the Imperials proposed a merger at Humboldt Park.  The meeting took place and the Latin Kings were born, now all MarKings became Latin Kings and they ran the Boulevards.

The Gaylord left this neighborhood by the mid-1960s as members joined the military as soon as the Vietnam war started, many other partook in white flight and moved out of the area.  After the Gaylord left Little Village was mostly dominated by Latin Kings and Ridgeway Lords but the two gangs were not rivals at the time.

The Outlaws Motorcycle Club changed direction and became a club for older men and took their focus away from brawling with street gangs in the streets.

By the end of the decade “white flight” increased rapidly as more Mexican families moved into the area.  Lack of employment at local manufacturing jobs made the area less attractive to middle class whites and Czechs, Polish and German residents began to evacuate to the suburbs.  As the white residents left the meaning behind Little Village changed into a new identity as “La Villita” or Little Village.  The loss of manufacturing jobs only became worse in the 1970s as many Mexicans in the area fell into poverty.

New gangs would form in Little Village like the Latin Counts, Ambrose and Villa Lobos in the 1970s but none would come close to equaling the size of the Latin Kings.  Ambrose kept a piece of 26th street until the later 1980s but eventually lost the turf.  Latin Count gang members moved into the Lawndale Homes as many Mexican families were living in these projects as well.  Eventually Latin Counts left the projects and Latin Kings, Vice Lords and Gangster Disciples had full control, but the surrounding area was completely controlled by Latin Kings.  It wasn’t until the Two Six organization took form in the 1970s that the Latin Kings would meet their most ferocious rival.

As the 1970s progressed, Two Sixs would gain more and more popularity in western Little Village, mainly in the K-Town section.  As Two Six grew they gunned for drug territory and attempted to mow down as many Latin Kings as possible, this sparked a vicious and very violent war.

The 1970s, 1980s and 1990s saw the most violent years on the streets of Little Village mostly due to the back and forth violence between Two Six and Latin Kings as they continued to hit each other back again and again.  Little Village would often be regarded as one of the more dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago.  In the 21st century the violence has toned down some but this is still an area plagued with crime and is the poorest Mexican community in the city.  Eventually Two Sixs and Latin Kings suppressed other gangs to the point where they really can’t claim any ownership of territory on these streets.  Villa Lobos, Ridgeway Lords, Sin City Boys and Gaylords had been pushed out from this area, mainly because members have flipped to Two Six or Latin Kings.

Little Village is the hub of Chicago Mexican culture and is proud of their heritage.  It is a neighborhood with great restaurants and hard working people even though gang violence is heavy in these streets.  There is no need to fear passing through or shopping in this community because gang members are not trying to cause trouble with law abiding citizens for the most part.  Mainly it is just gang against gang violence.

Little Village is the birthplace of the south side Latin Kings, Two Six, Sin City Boys and Ridgeway Lords.