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Pilsen, Little Village, West Loop

Melissa Ortega, 8-Year-Old Murdered While Walking With Mother, Memorialized In Little Village Mural

Artist Milton Coronado said painting the mural was personal to him, as he also lost his father to gun violence in Little Village. He hopes the mural will help the community heal and promote peace.

Milton Coronado and The Kid From Pilsen stand in front of the mural they painted at West 26th Street and South Keeler Avenue honoring Melissa Ortega, 8, who was fatally shot in Little Village earlier this year.
Provided/@thekidfrompilsen
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LITTLE VILLAGE — A new Little Village mural is dedicated to the memory of 8-year-old Melissa Ortega, who was shot and killed while walking with her mother earlier this year.

Artist Milton Coronado painted the portrait of Melissa at West 26th Street and South Keeler Avenue three blocks from where she died. It includes a line of scripture — “the kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children” — in Spanish to honor her family’s faith.

Coronado was approached to work on the piece by The Mural Movement, a nonprofit focused on beautifying underserved communities of color. He had wanted to paint something of Melissa for a while, he said.

“Once I heard about her story, I wanted to paint her,” Coronado said. “My first goal when I paint murals like this is just to give something positive, give some kind of hope to a family. A mural like this obviously will not bring back the individual, but at least it will remind not just the family but also the community of this young child and who she was, how she was.”

Melissa was shot and killed Jan. 22 while she walked with her mother in the 4000 block of West 26th Street. Melissa and her mother were not the intended targets of the shooting, which was related to a gang conflict, police said. A teen and 27-year-old Xavier Guzman have since been charged with murder.

Melissa Ortega, a student at Emiliano Zapata Academy, and her mother had recently immigrated to Chicago. The murder devastated the Little Village community.

Coronado said he wanted the mural to resemble a child’s drawing. He tried to achieve that with a rainbow and flowers, as well as with lettering that imitates a child’s handwriting.

Credit: Provided/@eljefe312
Milton Coronado and The Kid From Pilsen stand in front of the mural they painted at West 26th Street Street and South Keeler Avenue honoring Melissa Ortega, 8, who was fatally shot in Little Village earlier this year.

Coronado has painted several tribute murals in the city, including one of 13-year-old Adam Toledo fatally shot by a police officer in Little Village, and for Vanessa Guillén, the 20-year-old woman who was murdered at Fort Hood in Texas, he said.

Painting Melissa’s mural was difficult not only because of her young age, but because Coronado lost his father to gun violence in Little Village in 2001, he said.

“It was kind of like going down the same feelings and emotions as I heard about [Melissa’s] story and as I planned to paint her,” Coronado said. “It was very personal. It’s almost like when I painted her it was giving honor, respect and memorializing my dad, as well.”

A youth activist known as The Kid From Pilsen assisted on the mural, calling it a “natural response” to honor Melissa’s life. He said he felt “numb” when he reading about Melissa’s death, but he hopes art can heal the community and promote peace among young folks.

“I hope to not make any more murals like this,” he said. “We don’t want to see young people getting murdered in our streets.”

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