Primitivo Cortes sits on a short brick wall that frames the garden next to his home in Walker’s Point. Cortes, 60, smokes a cigarette in his work uniform, a collared, grey shirt that displays his first name. Primitivo was born in Mexico but came to Milwaukee in 1994. “Better opportunities, better jobs.” he says. “In Mexico the situation is terrible.”
Lydia Centeno stands in the front yard of her childhood home on the 400 block of West Mineral Street in Walker’s Point. Centeno has lived and worked in the neighborhood, which she describes as “family,” for most of her life. “[There are] a lot of families here. Some families are still living here, some are moved out,” says Lydia, 58. “And, right now, there’s a lot of businesses that are going up on 2nd Street. So, a lot of people are moving this way.”
Brandon James kneels in the doorway of a towering duplex on the 300 block of West Mineral Street in Walker’s Point, painting the upstairs door a deep blue. James, who owns the home, lives in Bay View but grew up in West Allis — “basically” Milwaukee, he says. “It was nice; it was quiet. I didn’t live too far from a park so we spent a lot of time at the park, at least in the summer,” he says. “We actually lived upstairs in a duplex that my grandma owns and my grandma lived downstairs.”
Mary Koerner looks down at her phone as she sits on a bench in front of Soup Bros. She’s just waiting for work to start. Koerner isn’t from Milwaukee, though. It’s just been the last of a couple different stops. But, she says, Syracuse, New York, where she grew up, isn’t that much different. What’s it like? “Like here. Cold, snowy, you know,” she says with a smile.
Steven Feih grew up in Brewer’s Hill and Bay View in a small family – it was just his mom, his dad and himself. “Being an only kid, you know, your dog’s your best friend, your imagination’s your second-best friend.” Though Feih isn’t what you would call a loner he has a complicated relationship with people, stemming from 20 years working as a bartender. “You see it all – you know what people are going to say before they say it,” he said.