Hero Street, U. S. A.: The Story of Little Mexico's Fallen Soldiers

Hero Street, U. S. A.: The Story of Little Mexico's Fallen Soldiers

by Marc Wilson
     
 

The first book-length account of a story too long overlooked

Claro Solis wanted to win a gold star for his mother. He succeeded—as did seven other sons of “Little Mexico.”

Second Street in Silvis, Illinois, was a poor neighborhood during the Great Depression that had become home to Mexicans fleeing revolution in their homeland. In 1971

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Overview

The first book-length account of a story too long overlooked

Claro Solis wanted to win a gold star for his mother. He succeeded—as did seven other sons of “Little Mexico.”

Second Street in Silvis, Illinois, was a poor neighborhood during the Great Depression that had become home to Mexicans fleeing revolution in their homeland. In 1971 it was officially renamed “Hero Street” to commemorate its claim to the highest per-capita casualty rate from any neighborhood during World War II. Marc Wilson now tells the story of this community and the young men it sent to fight for their adopted country.

Hero Street, U.S.A. is the first book to recount a saga too long overlooked in histories and television documentaries. Interweaving family memories, soldiers’ letters, historical photographs, interviews with relatives, and firsthand combat accounts, Wilson tells the compelling stories of nearly eighty men from three dozen Second Street homes who volunteered to fight for their country in World War II and Korea—and of the eight, including Claro Solis, who never came back.

As debate swirls around the place of Mexican immigrants in contemporary American society, this book shows the price of citizenship willingly paid by the sons of earlier refugees. With Hero Street, U.S.A., Marc Wilson not only makes an important contribution to military and social history but also acknowledges the efforts of the heroes of Second Street to realize the American dream.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Second Street in the railroad town of Silvis, Ill., was known as "Little Mexico." Its people had fled Mexico during its revolution almost 100 years ago and found work with the railroads, seeking to survive, to move in from society's margins. "We all wanted to be Americans," recalled one resident. "Nobody knows how patriotic we Mexican Americans were." Seventy-eight men from 35 small houses, shacks and converted boxcars served in WWII and Korea. Eight died-reportedly the highest per capita rate of any neighborhood-but despite this service, Second Street remained unpaved for years. Its veterans were blackballed by the local VFW, which feared "the Mexican Americans would take the post over...." But recognition of the community's sacrifices came in 1968 when a grateful legislature renamed Second Street "Hero Street." Journalist Wilson, founder of the International Newspaper Network, tells the stories of these families with a clarity that never lapses into sentiment or pity. Things are very different now, affirm relatives and descendants. All the more reason to remember by name the young men from Little Mexico who were "killed in action fighting for their country." 15 b&w photos. (May)

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Kirkus Reviews
Associated Press news executive Wilson looks at a single block in Silvis, Ill., and the families who sacrificed their sons to combat deaths in World War II and Korea. Little understood in America, the Mexican Revolution accounted for millions of deaths between 1910 and 1920 and the emigration of another million Mexicans to the United States. A sizable community ended up in Silvis, working for the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad, living in boxcars, weathering the Great Depression and enduring numerous violent labor-management disputes. Many of the families later moved to Second Street-an area of town known as Little Mexico-and from this tight-knit pocket of poverty they sent their sons to war. Out of the 78 who served, eight died, likely "the most from any single block in America." All of the boys were indifferently schooled, most of them boxed a little, all shared a fierce patriotism. Notwithstanding his dogged interviewing, Wilson never quite fleshes out each of these cruelly foreshortened lives. Taken together, however, the stories deal less with individuals and with war than they do with a special community. Wilson successfully ties together the history of the refugee families with the history that their children helped to make in faraway battlefields in Europe and Asia. Little Mexico's surviving soldiers returned to a country where bigotry and prejudice against Hispanics was still widespread. That prejudice lasted until the late '60s, when local officials finally agreed that Second Street embodied something quite remarkable, a level of service and sacrifice worthy of the designation "Hero Street."An appropriate tribute to the men who died and a fitting appreciation of theneighborhood they so distinguished.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780806140124
Publisher:
University of Oklahoma Press
Publication date:
05/15/2009
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.00(d)

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