V.H. Garza, early Spanish-speaking arrival in Harvard, gets honorary street name in town

Vicente Garza family was one of the first Spanish-speaking clans in city

Harvard Alderwoman Rosa Luna, 4th Ward, cuts ribbon on Saturday, June 8, 2024, during the ceremony naming the entrance to Milky Way Park after her father, V.H. Garza. The Garza family was one of the first Spanish-speaking families  in Harvard.

Rosa Luna remembers being 14 years old in June 1974 and waking up in her new Harvard home for the first time.

She was one of 14 family members – her mother, brothers and sisters – who moved from their south Texas hometown to the far north reaches of McHenry County. They joined their father, Vicente Garza, who had just moved to Harvard for his job with H & E Sod Nursery.

On Saturday, the patriarch of that family was honored with a street named after him. The entrance to Milky Way Park, 300 Lawrence Road, received a sign in his honor.

The entrance to Milk Way Park was honorably designated as V.H. Garza Way on Saturday, June 8, 2024. The Garza family moved to Harvard in 1974.

“My dad, he came as an immigrant to Illinois in the 1960s,” said Luna, Harvard’s 4th Ward alderwoman.

She requested the honorary street as a private citizen, City Administrator Lou Leone said.

His job with the sod farm moved him from Tinley Park to Harvard and provided housing. That allowed Garza, who died, to send for his family, Luna said.

“We immigrated from a Texas boarder town to Harvard because he was tired of being alone,” she said.

That fall, she and her siblings began attending Harvard schools, where they were only the second Spanish-speaking family there.

“It was a huge culture shock. There were not very many Spanish families in town,” Luna said.

It was a huge culture shock. There were not very many Spanish families in town.”

—  Rosa Luna, Harvard 4th Ward alderwoman

Over the years, Garza helped to bring other families to jobs in Harvard, she said.

“Dad did everything by the book, becoming a citizen, and he had his visa to come into the country. He would bring them from Mexico to work in the states legally,” she said.

According to U.S. Census data, Harvard is now 54% Hispanic or Latino.

“Now, we are not the minority in town. ... We have a mixed culture, and we need unity,” she said.

That is why she ran for the City Council seat, Luna said – to help the Spanish-speaking residents become more involved in their community.

“We feel like we are a part of the community, and Harvard is a great town to live in,” she said.

According to the Harvard Transportation Committee, the Milky Way Park entrance was picked for the honorary designation because it would not affect residents or cause confusion.

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