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Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024
The Observer

Shocker: South Bend has another side

When you ask most Americans what comes to mind when they hear the words “South Bend, Indiana,” they will likely tell you “Notre Dame,” envisioning the Golden Dome serving as support for the Blessed Mother to sit atop, watch over and live within her beloved tri-campus.

Most Americans will not imagine the other side of South Bend: The streets of W Western Avenue, torn from its days as a previously thriving community by gentrification and urban decay. (Arguably created by constant construction and development of our “side” of the area.) Most won’t envision the bustling area my friend Maeve and I happened upon when we were stuck on campus for Easter, bored, homesick and tired of our typical, uneventful dining hall meals.

So, on Holy Saturday afternoon, off went two Saint Mary’s students, splitting the fare of an Uber and landing upon a one-story diner-style restaurant called Taqueria Chicago

Upon entering, we were nearly knocked out by the pungency of traditional spices filling the room along with the sound of Spanish chatter at every corner. The night felt magical as our mouths watered, stomach and hearts filled with a meal of deep-fried tortillas stuffed with beef, cheese and masa forming a gordita, along with fajitas, both void of sour cream — an anomaly for two white girls from the Deep South and the Midwest. We bought seconds to take back to our dorms, and ran across the street with juvenile excitement when our eyes caught La Rosita, an ice cream shop just adjacent.

As we talked, though, we realized something: This part of town is often forgotten by our community. A typical American wouldn’t think of this when they hear the words “South Bend, Indiana” because a typical student wouldn’t think of it.

While the area typically gains a reputation for being “sketchy” (the area is known for a plethora of shootings and heavy police reports that are common in underprivileged areas), there is also a vivacious culture that is so deeply alive and cannot be replaced with restaurants like Bru Burger and Brothers.

After we pay the bill and are headed out, stomachs full, grinning ear-to-ear, laughing because of our little random adventure that stemmed from an Easter weekend ridden by homesickness, I can’t help but smile when I notice a picture sitting behind the register with an icon of the Blessed Mother painted on it. And I rest in the knowledge that, though she may be alive atop the Golden Dome at Notre Dame, Mary faithfully watches over this side of town, too. She lives as deeply — if not more — on the margins, than fixed atop the Golden Dome.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.