Recognize this sign? If you’ve ever traveled down Main Street west of downtown near The Strand chances are the answer is yes. You also may have wondered why there was no actual street there, just what appears to be a driveway or alley. I foolishly assumed it was just one of those custom made signs that people order from the back of a catalog but I decided to use the Google machine to see if there was more to the story. Indeed there is. According to the book Latinos in Waukesha, in 2006 the alley was named in honor of the Melendes family, who were the first Latino immigrants to Waukesha and the first to own a home here.
The book also noted that some in the Latino community thought that it was kind of shitty of Waukesha to only name an alley and not an actual road after this important family. I thought the same thing. However it was the Melendes family that requested that the alley bear the family name because of what it represented. The alley ran led right to the doorstep of the Melendes home and represented a path to a new life for Hispanic immigrants. It also was the gateway to the cultural neighborhood around The Strand, which itself has quite the history, but that’s for another post.
For more about the Melendes family, The Strand, or the history of Latinos in the City, check out Latinos in Waukesha by Walter Sava Ph.D. and Anselmo Villarreal. I know the Library has several copies and you might be able to find it (or special order it at Martha Merrell’s) You can also look at the book via Google Books. I have skimmed through the Google Books version and it looks like a fascinating read.