Your Ward Room Blogger was at Hawthorne Race Course when suddenly there was a loud commotion in Spanish.
A group of men in cowboy hats and cowboy boots were standing under a television monitor, cheering for a quarter-horse race from Hialeah Park in Florida.
“The Mexicans love to bet on the quarter horses,” said my friend, Big Tom.
“It’s convenient that the track is down here, because this is such a Mexican area,”
Tom said the track drew immigrants to the neighborhood.
I remember Ald. Ricardo Munoz, who represents Little Village, the Chicago neighborhood just across Cicero Avenue, making the same point. Hawthorne Race Course is a big source of employment for his constituents. Mexico is a horse-oriented culture, and Mexican immigrants work as grooms and hot walkers for the Thoroughbreds who race at Hawthorne, making it an important factor in the economy and the ethnic makeup of Cicero and the Southwest Side.
Cicero Township supported Gov. Pat Quinn strongly in 2010, giving him 65 percent of its vote. The Latino vote was probably even higher. Yet Quinn is endangering Latino jobs in Cicero on the Southwest Side by refusing to sign gambling legislation that would allow racetracks to install slot machines.
The demolition of Sportsman’s Park had little effect on the area. Sportsman’s, right next door to Hawthorne, was redundant. The two tracks shared the same barns. After Sportsman’s closed, Hawthorne simply took over its spring racing dates. But if Hawthorne closes, all the racing action would shift to Arlington Park, which currently only races in the summer. That could be devastating for the Southwest Side’s economy. Gov. Quinn thinks gambling expansion will only be good for Las Vegas casino executives. It will be good for La Villita, too.
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