University News

"Hero Street" Author to Highlight Hispanic Heritage Month at WIU

October 2, 2009

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MACOMB, IL - - Regional author and journalist Marc Wilson, author of "Hero Street, U.S.A.: The Story of Little Mexico's Fallen Soldiers," will speak at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7 at the Western Illinois University Multicultural Center in the activity room. According to Jeff Hancks, Baxter-Snyder Professor of Regional and Icarian Studies, Wilson will tell the fascinating story of Hero Street and the Mexican-American community in the Quad Cities.

"Knowing the Hero Street story is important to understanding Mexican-American history in Illinois," said Hancks. "Mexican Americans have a long history in the Quad Cities and Illinois, and Mr. Wilson's book does an incredible job of explaining the important, unique contributions this community has made to the area."

Nearly 100 years ago, before being designated "Hero Street U.S.A.," Second Street in Silvis (IL) was a popular destination for newly arrived Mexican immigrants who moved to town to work in the railroad industry, Hancks noted.

"The immigrants lived in houses, shacks and even abandoned boxcars and built a tight-knit community based on a shared culture and faith. They were proud to be in the United States, and they instilled that national pride in their children. When the U.S. went to war, the families living in the 35 houses on Second Street sent 78 sons to fight in World War II and Korea. Eight of these brave young men never returned, creating the highest per capita casualty rate for any single neighborhood in the entire country. In honor of the sacrifice Second Street families endured, the road was renamed 'Hero Street U.S.A.' in 1967," Hancks explained.

University Libraries and Casa Latina Cultural Center are partnering to bring Wilson to speak at WIU's newly opened Multicultural Center on the Macomb campus, noted Hancks.

"We are eager to welcome Mr. Wilson to discuss his book and tell the Hero Street story," Hancks said. "His topic is a perfect match for the WIU Archives, as we promote regional history and regional authors. It is most appropriate that he visit us during Hispanic Heritage Month, as we celebrate the impressive contributions of the Hispanic community in the United States. I think audiences will be impressed with the amount of research Mr. Wilson did to write this book. His personal connections with Hero Street families make the story come alive."

Wilson's talk is open free to the public. Copies of "Hero Street, U.S.A.: The Story of Little Mexico's Fallen Soldiers" will be available for purchase at the presentation.

For more information, contact Hancks at (309) 298-2717 or

Read more about Wilson's book at "New Regional History Book" (see: and get more information about history relating to WIU, Macomb and the western Illinois region via University Libraries' Archives & Special Collections blog at

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (
Office of University Relations