Chicago’s Mayor Visits ¡WEPA! Mercado del Pueblo

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This year Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot decided to visit all 77 community areas across Chicago with a citywide bus tour – exploring our city’s great neighborhoods and community based entrepreneurship.  One of the stops on this citywide bus tour was Humboldt Park’s very own ¡WEPA! Mercado del Pueblo.  During Lightfoot’s visit to ¡WEPA! Mercado del Pueblo she met with all the vendors of the Mercado, talked with the former Mayor of San Juan; Carmen Yulin Cruz, was gifted a special Puerto Rico painted fedora, and saw the mural on Rockwell Street dedicated to Puerto Rican and Palestinian solidarity.  

The business incubator program operated by The Puerto Rican Cultural Center at ¡WEPA! Mercado del Pueblo has become a shining example for how to support community based and culturally informed entrepreneurship, particularly in communities that have endured decades of disinvestment by the city of Chicago, like Humboldt Park.  Systemic disinvestment, redlining, police brutality, and more recently gentrification have been major barriers for entrepreneurs in Humboldt Park and in many Black and Brown communities throughout Chicago. Part of the goal of this bus tour is for city leaders and cabinet members to highlight the investments they are now making in historically disinvested communities with the hopes of supporting local Black and Brown businesses.  To repair the harm done by the City of Chicago’s decades of disinvestment in Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities there needs to be a deeper conversation about reparations paid by the City of Chicago.  At the same time the city’s investment in ¡WEPA! Mercado del Pueblo and the Chicago Business Center program the city operates out of the Mercado have become major resources for our local entrepreneurs.  

The aim of the business incubator program at ¡WEPA! Mercado del Pueblo is to become a stepping stone for the vendors and provide a support system so they can transition from vendors to brick and mortar business owners on Paseo Boricua.  The program already has one success story with Paseo Boricua’s newest restaurant; Janellie’s Kitchen located at 2617 W. Division Street.  Janellie started as a vendor at the Mercado and with free business advising and support provided to her by the Business Initiatives of The Puerto Rican Cultural Center she now has her own brick and mortar restaurant.  However, ¡WEPA! Mercado del Pueblo is a resource for more than just the vendors who sell there.  The Chicago Business Center at the Mercado is available to all community members Monday through Friday 9:00 AM-5:30 PM, and brings City of Chicago resources like business licensing assistance, professional development, and other city resource support for small businesses directly to the community.  Recently they held a major event right in the Chicago Business Center office at the Mercado del Pueblo to provide City Key IDs to anyone interested.  Nearly 100 community members showed up to access this service, and remained to partake in the community atmosphere, beautiful artisanry, and delicious treats you can always find at ¡WEPA! Mercado del Pueblo.  Please contact Sergio Anariba 773-698-7233.

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