WHO: Meli Loera, 34, was born in Mexico, the youngest of six, and then lived in Texas until she was 7. She’s been here ever since and now considers herself a devoted Milwaukeean. These days, Loera is captain of event planning at the three restaurants under the StandEat- Drink umbrella.
WHERE: The “Unity” mural on South Sixth Street in Walker’s Point.
My family grew into Milwaukee. When we came here, one of the first places we went was the Sixteenth Street health clinic. That was monumental for us because not only did it mean health care, but it also meant connection to the Latin community here.
That’s where we were introduced to El Rey, which used to have just one store across the street from the Sixteenth Street clinic. It was like, “Oh, we have groceries that are familiar to us.”
From school, we learned a different language. My brothers and sisters who are older than me, they had to find their way here. We set our roots. I saw them grow up into everything Milwaukee has to offer.
Two of my brothers and one of my sisters went to South Division High School. I went to Hamilton High. But when I was still a kid, they experienced prom together. That was a totally new experience to us. There, my family saw students of all shades. Seeing my siblings have friends from all over – and seeing how diverse it was and how they had made friends with everyone – we couldn’t tell that other people knew we were different or that we were “new” or anything like that. That was big for me.
We’ve embraced the city for what it is, and the city has embraced us back.