Victor Rodriguez knew how to bring people together.
Rodriguez was a pastor for 20 years at La Villita Community Church in Little Village before he died in February at 52 of complications from internal bleeding.
Rodriguez — or “Pastor Vic,” as the neighborhood knew him — opened his church’s doors to the marginalized and downtrodden. He also threw huge block parties in the summer that brought out thousands of believers and unbelievers alike.
To keep true to his legacy, Rodriguez’s family and his church will throw a party Saturday, April 27, to celebrate the unveiling of an honorary street sign bearing his name at his favorite corner in Little Village.
“Honorary Pastor Victor H. Rodriguez Way” will stretch along 23rd Street between Central Park Avenue and Lawndale Street. The celebration will kick off with a ceremony at 1 p.m. at Rodriguez’s church at 2300 S. Millard Ave. followed by a “taquiza,” a taco party.
Rodriguez’s eldest son, Victor Rodriguez, said his father was never interested in creating a legacy and “always shined light on others.”
“It’s cool to see people and the city decide to honor him in this way. He wasn’t just a pastor in the neighborhood — he was a force for good in the city of Chicago,” he said. “The grandchildren he never got to meet will be able to see his name on their streets.”
Rodriguez was committed to the health and well-being of Little Village. His work addressed pressing community issues, especially those concerning the neighborhood’s youth.
“Pastor Vic” was an active member in several community organizations that focussed on ending domestic violence, spurring community development and promoting homeownership. He founded the Chicago Youth Boxing Club in the basement of his church where he also hosted several gang tattoo removal sessions.
Rodriguez’s nephew, Dahriian Espinoza, nominated his uncle for the distinction to Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22nd) in March. The City Council approved the honorary street name April 10.
Espinoza said throwing a party in his uncle’s honor was a no-brainer.
“When I got the clear from the city, I reached out to family and a couple of his close friends. Everyone knew that my uncle loved being around other people, so we decided to throw a party,” he said. “There are about a million pictures of him playing grillmaster — that’s what he loved, to serve other people.”
Carlos Ballesteros is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South and West sides.