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Ofrenda appreciates the Lakeview store, a restaurant family

There are similar images, skeletons, spirits, and sweets, but for many Chicagoans of Mexican heritage, the day after Halloween is more spiritual than spooky.

And for a family with deep roots in Lake View, this year’s Day of the Dead is a remembrance of a special life.

El Tapatio Cafe in Lakeview.

If “memory does not change”, then at Café el Tapatio the memory of a distant place is always on the menu.

Julie and Jose Parra immigrated to Chicago from Guadalajara, Mexico, and opened a restaurant overlooking the lake in the mid-1970s.

Julie and Jose are a couple.

El Tapatio is the anchor of the block and a reflection of the longtime owner’s personality.

But after two decades in the kitchen, Julie Parra came up with another business idea.

“My mom got tired of the monotony of cooking every day and wanted to get into retail,” said Julie’s son Mauricio “Joe” Parra.

About half a block south of Ashland Avenue, she opened a children’s boutique-turned-dress store that helped weave Mexican culture into Chicago style.

Julie’s daughter Yvette Parra eventually took over the dress shop with her own daughter Mia.

Yvette Parra and her daughter Mia in their family clothing store.

About six months ago, Julie Parra died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 74.

But her memory lives on.

“She is always with me. Always. Always. Always, – said Yvette Parra.

And so this year, one of the most important Mexican holidays is more poignant for the couple.

Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, blends Mexican mysticism and Catholic tradition. It is believed that every year the spirits of the dead return to the world of the living for one day.

Yvette Par built an ofrenda, or altar, for the celebration, a sort of memorial to her mother and other deceased family members, complete with their favorite items to help them celebrate.

The restaurant has another altar with a photo of Julie Parr, smiling in the dining room, as she has done for more than 40 years.

On Day of the Dead, it’s a legacy that lives on on Ashland Avenue and Memorial Lane.

“As long as you remember all the times you were with them, they will always be alive with us,” Yvette Parra said.


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