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In general, The Young Lords was a nationalist group for Puerto Ricans who lived in — and migrated to — America. The group began as a gang in Lincoln Park Neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. By Sept 1969, the organization evolved into a human rights group led by Jose Cha Cha Jermenez with one of their main causes being the independence of Puerto Rico. The catalyst for the organization’s upgrade from “gang” into “human rights group” was the displacement of Puerto Rican immigrants — through Mayor Richard J. Daley’s political policies — which evicted entire Latino communities for the sake of lakefront and downtown properties.
Due to the mass Puerto Rican migrations of the 1950s, the organization’s chapters were based on “immigration hubs” or cities along the east coast where new arrivals established communities. Some of the other cities in where chapters were established included Manhattan, Philadelphia, Newark, and Los Angeles. The New York Chapter of the Young Lords had a sister organization named MAO (Mothers And Others); which had strong female leadership of Angela Adorno, Judy Cordeo, and Hilda Ignatin. Their efforts added women’s rights as another cause to the Young Lords’ human rights agenda. New left-wing publications and local media coverage of the Civil Rights Movement helped spread their fame nation-wide.
Efforts to strengthen community improvement stemmed from unsolved crimes in minority neighborhoods. In May 1969, the Young Lords established their central headquarters in Chicago’s Peoples Church (formerly First Spanish Methodist Church) supported by Pastor Rev. Bruce Johnson and his wife Eugenia. In September 1969, the couple was found brutally stabbed to death. Other “mystery” cases include one of Julio Roldan, who allegedly committed suicide in custody of the New York Police Department. By 1973, The Federal Government’s Counter-Intelligence Program, Gang Intelligent Unit, and Red Squad infiltrated and sabotaged The Young Lords and other human rights groups, such as the Black Panther Party.
Non-white civil rights groups learned from each other in an effort to improve living conditions for all minorities in America. In 1975, the campaign to run Jose Cha Cha Jermenez against Chris Cohen for Chicago’s mayor was based from Bobby Seale run for mayor in Oakland, California years prior. Both these campaigns were only meant to highlight the problems of minority communities such as improving the quality of education, tenant rights, and urban renewal. In 1982, Young Lords of Chicago became the first Latino Group to support the Campaign of the First African-American mayor, Harold Washington. Years later, members of that Chicago Chapter such as Toney Baez, Carlos Flores, Angel Del Rivero, Omar Lopez, Angie Adorno — and founder Jose Cha Cha Jermenez- formed the Lincoln Park Project to preserve the history of Young Lords Human Rights Group and document the predicaments of other Latinos exile from Chicago’s Lincoln Park Community.