Pastor Victor Hugo Rodríguez, the peacemaking pastor from Little Village who passed away in February due to sudden health complications, was designated an honorary street by the City of Chicago that unveils this month.
Pastor Vic served as the pastor of La Villita Community Church for 20 years and founded the Chicago Youth Boxing Club in the basement. The three-story building felt more like a community center than the type of orthodox church Little Village residents are accustomed to.
“It’s gonna be hard not to hear his keys coming down the stairs,” a young boxer said during the pastor’s memorial service. “It’s gonna be hard not listening to his jokes and not hear meaningful advice he was always giving me.”
The pastor’s nephew, Dahriian Espinoza, 28, who grew up in the church, nominated him for the distinction. He said that after noticing the brown street signs while he was driving, the idea to honor his recently deceased uncle “just clicked” and he took it to the 22nd ward office.
Pastor Vic was well known in Little Village, having arrived with his family as a 10-year-old boy from Nuevo Ideal, Durango. He practiced what he preached, his parishioners say. The pastor made meaningful connections with the youth in his community, crossing generational, racial, and gang lines to do so.
“You gotta walk with people, you gotta shepherd everybody where they’re at,” he once said.
The pastor, who was an avid White Sox fan, organized summer softball and basketball games that were open to teenagers in Little Village and North Lawndale, introduced free gang tattoo removals, and loved getting behind the grill.
“His heart would break whenever he would hear of a young person shot or killed due to violence or any loss of life,” said Jorge Roque, a friend and youth mentor in the church.
He held dozens of funerals, made hospital visits, and fundraised for families to pay for the expenses.
“I’ve seen him take his jackets off, his boots off, and open his wallet to give to anyone that was in need.”
Espinoza’s request was introduced in March by Ald. Ricardo Muñoz and approved by the City Council.
“While Rodriguez's service began in the Church, it was not confined to its four walls. He was passionate about getting his hands dirty working in the trenches to develop the next generation of indigenous leaders. Rodriguez was a cornerstone of the La Villita community,” the ordinance said.
The designation "Pastor Victor H. Rodriguez Way" covers the southwest corner of 23rd and Millard Ave., according to the resolution.
And it extends east to Central Park, Espinoza said. “It was the epicenter of his life, where he lived and worked.”
The pastor’s family invites the larger community to the street sign unveiling ceremony on Saturday, April 27, at 1pm, in front of La Villita Community Church, 2300 S. Millard. There will be taquiza and mariachi outside, weather permitting.
Congressman Chuy Garcia, who considered Pastor Vic’s passing “a huge loss” for his district, will be among the speakers remembering his life.
“It’s a day when we’re gonna get to celebrate, more than anything; it will be like a block party,” said Pastor Vic’s son, Victor Jr. “It’s just really beautiful for me to see his legacy solidified.”
The pastor is survived by his wife of 27 years, Magdalena Rodríguez; and two sons and a nephew that was like a son, Victor, 20, Isaih, 17, and Luis Alberto Perales, 21.