Our History: Boxcar Camps in South Chicago

December 07, 2015
Chicago, Illinois
Claretian with families at the boxcar camps

At the beginning of the 20th century, the tCI community of South Chicago was one of the city’s main industrial areas. Beginning in 1919 and throughout the next decade, thousands of Mexican laborers came to the area to work in the steel mills. 

The Claretians grew Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in the community and worked tirelessly to meet the needs of the Mexican community in South Chicago. The rapid influx of workers meant that a large number of Mexican families ended up living in substandard housing. Many even took up residence in boxcar camps that sprung up near the railroad lines in the area, converting old railcars into rough, makeshift homes. Claretians visited the camps and did what they could to meet the needs of the residents.

Claretian Fr. James Tort with families living in boxcar camps in 1924
Claretian Fr. James Tort with families living in boxcar camps in 1924

Almost 100 years later, Claretians in South Chicago are still working hard to respond to the needs of those living in poverty. Programs like Our Lady of Guadalupe School, Claretian Associates, and Villa Guadalupe Senior Housing are designed to be responsive to the needs of the South Chicago community of today.

You can help the Claretians continue their work by spreading the word about our programs on Facebook and Twitter and by encouraging your friends to sign up for our monthly email

email sign up donate