HUMBOLDT PARK — Humboldt Park’s steel Puerto Rican flags are Chicago’s newest landmarks.
The City Council signed off on the landmark designation Wednesday, the final hurdle in a regulatory process that began this spring with broad community support.
Erected in 1995 as a gateway to Humboldt Park’s Puerto Rican community, the nearly 60-foot-tall flags flank the half-mile stretch of Division Street between California and Western avenues known as Paseo Boricua.
The massive sculptures — each weighing 50 tons and reportedly built to withstand 70 mph winds — have come to define Humboldt Park, which is home to the largest Puerto Rican population in the city and the center of Puerto Rican culture throughout the Midwest.
Community leaders point to the towering flags as a powerful symbol of Puerto Rican pride in the face of gentrification, which has driven longtime residents and businesses out of Humboldt Park in recent years.
At a hearing this spring, commissioners said landmark status — a designation that will protect the flags from demolition or modifications — is long overdue.
“I can’t express how happy I am to see that we’ve come to this,” commissioner Alicia Ponce said in April. “I can’t pass under this gateway without singing the song, ‘Que Bonita Bandera’ — what a beautiful flag. It’s such a sense of pride and culture. This is a great step forward.”
The flags were designed by local architecture firm DeStefano & Partners. The firm used steel to honor the first wave of Puerto Ricans migrants who came to Chicago to work in the steel and welding industries in the mid-1940s to mid-1960s.
Local leaders celebrated the 25th anniversary of the flags in 2020.
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