News Ticker

Cicero’s Ethnic Makeup

Cicero has been home to countless immigrants throughout the towns history, from the Polish in the 1880’s through to today’s Mexican population along with the Bohemians, Italians and others along the way Cicero’s ethnic makeup has always been diverse.

Flags at UN Building Flags of the world in front of the UN building.

We’ve been asked several times recently about the ethnic makeup of Cicero. Some questions include “What areas of town did XYZ ethnicity settle into?” Mostly they’re pointed questions because people have a great sense of pride in their own ethnicity. Lithuanians want us to mention their contributions. Italians want us to note theirs. Today’s Cicero has a cross-section of culture and a large population of first and second generation Americans. But it always did. Just back in the day, people considered Eastern Europeans and “olive skinned” people minorities. Now those backgrounds melted in and new ones have taken their place.

 

The town is currently 90% Hispanic. For several generations before this current population, the town was home to many Eastern and Central European ethnic groups. Every generation has contributed something to the landscape that is now Cicero.

 

Bohemian FlagThe first thing that comes to mind when I get asked about Cicero’s ethnic history is probably Bohemian. I’m not talking about Greenwich Village, Hippy Dippy types. When I say “Bohemian”, I mean the Czechs and Hungarians that came from the Kingdom of Bohemia. If any ethnic group was considered the predominant one in Cicero, I would venture to guess it was the Bohemians. I mean, Cermak Road was dubbed the Bohemian Wall Street because of all the financial institutions and businesses that catered to the Czechs in Cicero. The Bohemian influences can still be seen all over the town, with places like the landmark Klas Restaurant, said to be a favorite of Al Capone. Or the Sokol Building that housed the Olympic Theater.

 

Bohemians were also the political, community, and business leaders in Cicero for many years and still hold a lot of sway in those arenas. Bohemians

Czech flag

The flag of the Czech Republic was also the flag of the former Czechoslovakia.

originally came into the town because of the opportunities for jobs due to the thriving industry of the time. They quickly made a community of their own, settling at first in the Morton Park area but quickly spreading to the Clyde and Warren Park neighborhoods. It is actually kind of amazing when you look at the path that lead the Hispanic population to Cicero. You realize that it is the exact same path the Czechs followed several generations earlier – starting in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, through South Lawndale, and then into Cicero.

 

The Slovak population also came to Cicero during this period. If you think Slovak and Czech are the same thing, see what happens when you call a Slovak a Czech or vice versa. The Slovaks basically settled right with their former neighboring Bohemians in the same areas of town.

 

Polish Flag

Polish Flag

Another large group in Cicero was the Polish, who settled in the Hawthorne area as early as the 1880’s, when it was still just a prairie. The Hawthorne neighborhood was an ideal location for the Polish immigrants who worked at the limestone quarry at 31st and Cicero. After years of having to travel several miles to attend church at Polish speaking parishes in the city, the Polish population formed St. Mary of Czestochowa Parish. In many people’s opinion, Czestochowa is the most ornate and finest church in town. They still hold mass, confessions, and devotions in the Polish language today. As the Polish population grew, they soon expanded outside of Hawthorne and established a second Polish parish in Grant Works – St. Valentine. St. Valentine was also the parish of choice for the early Italians who settled in Grant Works.

 

Also settling in the Hawthorne neighborhood at this time was a small population of German immigrants. The Germans also predominantly came to Cicero to work in the quarry. Their parish was St. Dionysius, on the 4800 block of 29th Street, which was then the only Catholic Church in Cicero – established from a mission of Holy Trinity Church in Chicago in 1889. So, if you’re keeping tabs, time wise, St. Dionysius predates the parishes the Polish immigrants built for themselves.

Flag of Lithuania

Flag of Lithuania

Grant Works was the first home to several different nationalities that came through Cicero. It was home to a large Lithuanian population that came in part from Bridgeport and Back of the Yards neighborhoods of Chicago. St. Anthony’s Parish was founded in 1911 and was the center of this community. It was one of the earliest Lithuanian communities outside of the city.

 

Flag of Italy

Italian Flag

I always get a kick out of it when I hear how Cicero is an Italian town or neighborhood. I mean, sure, there has been an Italian population in Cicero since the early 20th Century. But it was never predominantly Italian. I don’t even think that any of the neighborhoods of Cicero ever had a majority of Italians. But that is the perception that many people have. Hell, some people think it’s still an Italian neighborhood. Italians started coming to Cicero in the early 1900’s, originally settling in the Grant Works neighborhood which was shared with the also recent Lithuanian population. Like most of the groups that came to Cicero during this time, as the town was expanding these ethnic groups also moved to different neighborhoods within the town. Warren Park was a popular destination for Italians. Many Italians came to town later, after World War II. Some from this wave of Italians were not immigrants but second generationers from the Taylor Street, Bridgeport, or Little Hell neighborhoods of Chicago. Some even came from suburban areas with Italian populations, like Melrose Park.

 

Grant Works had its next wave of migrants in the late 1950s to 60’s. But unlike previous waves, these new citizens weren’t from other countries but from The Appalachians. They migrated north looking for better job opportunities. This wave was followed by a rise in the Hispanic population in town which largely took rise in the 1980s.

 

There were always other groups of ethnicities in Cicero, too, such as Swedes, Irish, and even English and Scottish. Most were not in large groups, except the Irish. The Irish had a considerable population in several parts of town and many were second generation or more who came to Cicero from the south side of Chicago.

 

My apologies if I left anyone out in this overview.

The flag images used in this article are from https://flagspot.net

2 Comments on Cicero’s Ethnic Makeup

  1. You forgot the Dutch community. Church and school on 14th and 58th and 59th

    • Linda,
      Thank you for pointing this out and you make a great point, the Dutch Reformed community as well as Timothy Christian Schools is an interesting topic that was just too vast to include in this article. We intend to add an article about this subject in the near future and if you or any reader wants to contribute on the subject it is always welcomed. Thanks for following us and participating in the conversation.

Leave a Reply

error: Content is protected !!