"Tengo Puerto Rico En Mi Corazon"
"I Hold Puerto Rico On My Heart"
—Logo of the Young Lords Organization
In 1968, José “Cha-Cha” Jiménez established the Young Lords Organization (YLO) at Lincoln Park, one of the most impoverished barrios of Chicago, Illinois. Modeled and inspired after the Black Panther Party (BPP), the YLO emerged from a Puerto Rican street gang to a community-based organization involved in advocating for minority access to healthcare, education, housing, and employment. The YLO was multiethnic and inclusive to African American, Latino/x, women, and LGBTQ membership, self-identified as “revolutionist nationalists” who rallied for Puerto Rico’s independence and power to the people, and adopted a 13 Point Program and Platform—a set of policies, responsibilities, and principles the organization lived by. The YLO expanded to other cities, including New York City, where a group of college students established a YLO chapter and renamed it the Young Lords Party (YLP).
After World War II ended, thousands of Puerto Ricans migrated from the island to the U.S. mainland, particularly to New York and Chicago, where they established neighborhoods at Lincoln Park and East Harlem. Within these barrios, Puerto Ricans became vulnerable to discrimination, police brutality, lack of employment and education, and gentrification.
Throughout the late 60s and early 70s, the Young Lords of Chicago rebranded from a street gang into a community-based organization. Similar to the BPP, the YLO’s structure of leadership consisted of various ministers who were responsible for specific committees, including education, health, and finance. The YLO of Chicago became more active after James Lamb, an off-duty officer, received no repercussions for killing Manuel Ramos, a YLO member, during a party.
Under Jiménez, the YLO formed coalitions with other groups and expanded to New York’s East Harlem, where a group of first generation college students headed an independent chapter. The New York City chapter aroused national headlines during their Garbage Offensive. In retaliation to the city’s poor sanitation services, YLO members led a week-long neighborhood cleanup and burned a garbage pile in the middle of a street intersection, causing the arrival of the police and fire department at the scene.
In New York and in Chicago, YLO members led a series of protests and building occupations, held free breakfast programs for children, which helped standardize the current federal children’s nutrition program, established free medical clinics, and created Puerto Rican cultural centers, celebrating the history and heritage of all Puertorriqueño/as. In addition, both chapters published a monthly newspaper to promote community services and events.
By the late 1970s, the Young Lords Organization and Party retreated from their activities. In 1995, Cha-Cha Jiménez collaborated with DePaul University’s Center for Latino Research to create the Lincoln Park Project, which archives and documents the legacy of the YLO.
|The United States wins the Spanish-American War and claims Puerto Rico as a territory.
|The United States grants Puerto Rico commonwealth status, giving the island more local control but binding its economy with the U.S.
|Albizu Campos, leader of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party (PNP), is sentenced to eighty years in prison after leading a series of protests for independence in Puerto Rico. Campos' death in 1965 inspires Puerto Ricans living both on the island and in the U.S. to join the independence movement.
|Orlando Dávila, Santos Guzman, Joe Vicente, Benny Perez, Angel Del Rio, Fermin Perez, and Jose “Cha-Cha” Jiménez establish the Young Lords, a street gang in Chicago, Illinois.
|Jose “Cha-Cha” Jiménez completes a 60-day sentence in Cook County Jail on drug charges. During his imprisonment, he reads about Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Pedro Albízu Campos, a figure of the Puerto Rican Independence Party. Upon his release, Cha Cha takes leadership of the Young Lords, renames the Young Lords Organization, and transforms it from a street gang to a community activism organization.
|Three Chicago-based realty companies begin renovating properties at Lincoln Park, increasing rent and tax rates for low-income families. YLO members challenge the gentrification of Lincoln Park by breaking the companies’ windows.
|James Lamb, an off-duty officer, kills Manuel Ramos, a YLO member at a party hosted by Orlando Dávila in Chicago. Four YLO members attack Lamb before police arrive at the scene. Lamb alleges that he acted in self-defense after being threatened by a gun that is never found by the investigators. The four YLO members face trial proceedings for assaulting Lamb. The off-duty officer does not receive repercussions for his action. The facts of this incident are still debated. This event becomes a turning point for YLO’s history, as it empowers the organization to become more active.
|The McCormick Theological Seminary purchases and renovates several properties at Lincoln Park. YLO members and Latino/x Lincoln residents occupy the McCormick Theological Seminary’s building for a week to protest the gentrification of Lincoln Park. Arthur Mckay, the president of the clergy, invests half a million dollars to Lincoln Park’s public housing, a free public clinic, and a Puerto Rican cultural center.
|Jose Martinez, a member of the Students for Democratic Society (SDS), and Jiménez of the YLO meet at a SDS convention in Chicago. Martinez requests Jimenez for permission to establish a YLO chapter in New York City.
|YLO leaders request the conversion of the Armitage Methodist Church at Chicago’s Lincoln Park into a daycare facility. After their request is denied, the YLO members organize a four day sit in. YLO leaders successfully use the Church to set up a daycare, a free breakfast program for children, a free health clinic, and a Puerto Rican cultural center. The community daycare is established to support working families and encourage women to join the organization. The Armitage Methodist Church at Chicago’s Lincoln Park is now a Walgreens.
|The YLO members of Chicago want to establish a “poor people” housing project at Lincoln Park. Alternatively, the Lincoln Park Conservation Community Council (LPCCC) proposes a housing project for middle-income families and makes recommendations to the Federal Housing Authority to only set aside 15% of its budget to low-income housing. The Department of Urban Renewal approves of the LCCC’s proposal, defeating the YLO’s “poor people” project and causing YLO members to protest.
|The YLP of New York initiates the Garbage Offensive in East Harlem in retaliation for the city’s poor sanitation services in low-income areas. The YLP, alongside East Harlem residents, requested brooms from the local Department of Sanitation. After their request was rejected, the YLP and community residents forcefully took the brooms and began a week-long neighborhood cleanup. The YLP placed the garbage into a pile in the middle of a street intersection and burned the garbage, causing the NYPD and the Fire Department to arrive at the scene. This event provoked considerable media attention on the poor sanitation services in East Harlem.
The YLP of New York occupies East Harlem’s First Spanish United Methodist Church and convert it to the "People’s Church" for 11 days, where they provide public services such as free breakfast programs, educational workshops, and healthcare services to low-income residents.
|The Puerto Rican community surpasses 1.5 million in the United States.
|The Young Lords Party of New York City seize a mobile chest X-ray unit and move it to East Harlem to test residents for Tuberculosis.
|Carmen Rodriguez, a Puerto Rican mother, dies at the Lincoln Medical Center in New York from medical malpractice during an abortion procedure. The YLO of New York occupies South Bronx’s Lincoln Medical Center, calling for adequate medical care for low-income residents.
|Jiménez announces his candidacy for Chicago's North Side’s Forty-Sixth Ward alderman seat.
|Jiménez becomes the first candidate to run against Mayor Richard J. Daley, and the YLO hold a campaign rally that attracts over 1,500 individuals. Jimenez loses the mayoral seat but proves the potency of the Latino/x vote.
|In collaboration with DePaul University’s Center for Latino Research, a group of Young Lords, including Cha-Cha Jiménez, create the Lincoln Park Project designed to archive and document the YLO's history.
|The Puerto Rican community in the U.S. reaches 5.6 million.
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