Welcome to Lorain
Imagine you wake up on a hot Saturday morning. You open your window and you are smacked in the face by the aroma of BBQ cooking on the grill. You step outside and begin your trek to the local corner store. An elderly Puerto Rican grandmother says something to you in Spanish. You understand completely not because you took a few lessons in school but you have been surrounded by the language all of your life. You have been surrounded by most cultures all of your life. In your city there is so much diversity that you and all over your friends look extremely similar despite coming from different backgrounds. Young girls contemplate which culture they will represent in the International Princess Pageant. You make it to the local corner store. You pick up a handful of penny candy, Non Laters (Now and Laters), a Chick-O-Stick and Laffy Taffy. You also grab a tall can of beer and a pack of cigarettes. The store owner angrily asks you what you are doing. You quickly produce a handwritten note from your mom stating she was the one sending you to the store for a pack of smokes and the beer. The store owner not only allows you to make the purchase but he allows you to pay for it all with the mulit-colored pieces of paper everyone knew as food stamps. On your way out a woman says hello to you. You don’t know her but she knows your family from your last name. Everyone is identified by who they are related to. On your way home you notice someone is watering their grass with a sprinkler. You begin to quickly make your way to the sprinkler for a quick spay of cool water. The woman across the street yells at you for going onto the property. She threatens to call your mother if you don’t take your purchase home right away. Your life is good. Both of your parents have a decent job. You enjoy all of the ethnic foods and have great friends at school. You live in Lorain, Ohio.
Lorain began to diversify, expand and prosper in the late 1800’s with the steel mill. People from all over the country would travel to Lorain for employment. In the mid 1900’s the executives of the steel mill came up with the idea of hiring workers from Latin America in hopes that they would better adapt to the extreme heat of the steel mill. This culminated in a mass recruiting/migration from Latin America to Lorain joining the Mexican community already here. In the 1970’s my father jumped on a train in Baltimore and got off in Lorain. He asked people were he could find a job and they pointed him into the direction of the massive steel mill. He was working that same day. While I was growing up everyone’s mother was a nurse or in the medical assisting field and everyone’s father worked in the steel mill. In the 1970’s Ford had multiple factories in the area employing thousands.
During the height of Lorain everything you could find was there. Busses and public transportation ran through the city. It was impossible to walk the downtown streets without bumping into one of the many shoppers. There was a theater downtown and a cinema on the other end of town. Small mom and pop shops were sprinkled all over the city. The beaches along Lake Erie were crowded with beach combers in bikinis, sail boats and beach volleyball tournaments. Just to the west of the beaches were the bustling shipyards owned by the iconic George Steinbrenner exported products and imported money. The steel mill was producing so much steel there was an orange glow in the air at night and the sulfur would cover the linen hanging on lines.
Lorain is a microcosm of the United States. What made things beautiful about the country were found in Lorain. The issues that plagued the country also plagued Lorain. Lorain bore the brunt of the slow erosion of the middle class that built the city. The steel mill went from employing thousands to just a few hundred. Ford eliminated the majority of the people it employed and relocated a large portion to other parts of the country like Louisville, Kentucky. Without the economic power of the middle class, most of the stores downtown closed along with many of the small mom and pop shops. The economic downturn opened the door to drugs and the dissolution of families. Now there are war zones in the city filled with drugs, prostitution and despair. Some people found the best way for them not to get sucked into the negativity had to leave the city. Blighted homes scatter the area. Like the rest of the country Lorain is down and it will take a lot to get back up.
Just because things are down doesn’t mean the people intend to keep things this way. Now more than ever people young and old are taking time to impact their community. Two young independents will vie for the right to become Lorain’s mayor. People are looking past the democratic and republican monikers and voting for the correct candidates. Social groups are sprouting up all over the city to make sure children have clothes, and supplies for schools. Camps and groups to give kids an alternative to drugs and violence are becoming more popular. Businesses and citizens are contributing what they have to make sure the homeless have supplies and food. Business owners are purchasing storefront property
The people are putting their best feet forward to reclaim their city.
While the many fight in the trenches a few fight amongst the stars. Since its start Lorain has always been a pool for talent. World renowned writers Toni Morrison and Helen Steiner Rice were from Lorain. Admiral Ernest J. King, a man vital to winning the war in the Pacific during World War II was from Lorain. NFL stars Matt Wilhelm, Anthony Hitchens and Raymont Harris are all from Lorain. Current The Voice contestant Lexi Davila is from Lorain. Undefeated professional boxer Wilkins Santiago is from Lorain. Acclaimed actor and host Kenny Santiago-Marrero is from Lorain. The actor known for his work on the USA Network and The Walking Dead Santiago Cirilo is from Lorain. Get Lifted Entertainment’s own Magi Love hails from Lorain. There are many more organizations and names coming up through the ranks to help put Lorain on the map.
I want to thank Magi Love and Get Lifted for allowing me this opportunity to share the special place I call home. I invited you to experience the families, food and feelings I have known my whole life. I knew Lorain was special when friends who visit my city are amazed. I have friends from Asia that could have vacationed anywhere in America and they chose Lorain and loved it. Lorain has its challenges and has a long way to go to be the utopia it used to be. It may never be that again. I welcome you to experience the fight to make it happen. I welcome you to get to know the stars before they are in the sky. Pull up a chair, grab a pastelillo and experience Lorain, Ohio. Bienenvido a Lorain.