Kankakee museum searches for stories of families that immigrated here

“Que es lo que mas le gusta de vivir en Kankakee?” Lorenia Lara asked the gathering of about 10 on the fourth floor of the Kankakee Public Library last Thursday night. “What do you like best about living here?”


“Kankakee has been good to me,” Jose Martinez replied. Martinez, of Limestone, and one of the four owners of Martinez Tacos, immigrated from Mexico in his 20s, found a job and raised his family here. He picked up English and construction skills on the job, burrowing 25 feet under the ground in many local subdivisions to lay plumbing lines.

The next question — about difficulties living in Kankakee — garnered other responses.

“I came and it was cold and I was pregnant,” recalled Angelica Martinez, of Kankakee. “I was closed in at home and couldn’t work or do anything. If you’re not used to that, it’s really ugly.”

The group, speaking in their native language, quickly began reminiscing as old friends do — about when Martinez Tacos in Kankakee was one of the first Hispanic restaurants or grocery stores in the area and how teenagers used to walk with their dates by the train depot.

Read the full story.

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