All posts by iacopoluzi

Crooked supporters: the criminal side of Argentine soccer

By Iacopo Luzi and Siying Li

In Argentina there is a passion that beats everything else: the passion for soccer.

Soccer is the main topic of discussion in almost every bar in Buenos Aires. The first story in newscasts is often the results of the last match. Love of the sport is demonstrated throughout the city.

Supporters pack stadiums and every match becomes a great show: songs, flags, chants and smoke bombs. This is soccer in Argentina.

However, beyond the passion, there are some dark shadows that obscure the sport. Some people were able to convert a passion for soccer into an illegal business.

These people are called “Barra Bravas”.

Many people believe that these groups of organized supporters are just violent troublemakers who sometimes create turmoil before and after a soccer match.

The Barra Bravas phenomenon was born in the 70s. Decades later, the nature of these groups got worse due to the increasing amount of money inside the soccer world.

Today, like organized criminal organizations, the Barra Bravas groups generate around 300,000 pesos a month, according to some Argentine government statistics.

After being elected, Argentina President Mauricio Macri said he would do something about the Barra Bravas phenomenon, but no  concrete steps have been taken to stop these soccer gangs run by fans.

Photo on top: La Bombonera or The Estadio Alberto J. Armando is the stadium located in La Boca district in Buenos Aires (Iacopo Luzi/MedillReports)

Living a full life in spite of being blind

By Iacopo Luzi

Maureen Reid, 44, lost her vision when she was 27 because of  type 1 diabetes.

Today she works as a job placement counselor at the Chicago Lighthouse, a non-profit organization that assists visually impaired people all over the country.

She agreed to be followed by Medill Reports during the month of May. This photo essay shows how Reid lives a full life.

Photo on top: Maureen together with her dog Gaston on the CTA (Iacopo Luzi/MedillReports)

What you need to know before you go, a look at traveling today

By Iacopo Luzi

A Medill Newsmakers Report

People are traveling like never before. In 2015 alone almost 1.2 billion people traveled around the world, an increasing of 44% compared to the year before. In this edition of Medill Newsmakers we try to understand what traveling means and why it’s so important to so many people.  We also have tips and suggestions on how to travel safely around the world today.

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Grappling with grief: the Frances Flowers story

By Iacopo Luzi

Frances Flowers is trying to overcome the hardest tragedy of her life: she lost her daughter Taylor almost three months ago.

Taylor Flowers was killed by her boyfriend on March 11th of this year.  He later killed himself. Flowers was shot with an illegal gun after a domestic dispute. The couple had a baby together named Avah. She fortunately survived.

The killer had mental problems and it wasn’t the first time he was violent with his girlfriend, but 23-year-old Flowers was convinced that she could have helped him.

Now Frances Flowers is taking care of the little Avah and thanks to the help of Chicago Survivors, she is working toward getting back to a normal life.

Chicago Survivors is a non-profit organization that offers immediate assistance to Chicago families who experience the homicide of a loved one. They respond to all the homicides by offering help and assistance from the crime scene up to six months after the tragic event happens.

Chicago Survivors is the only non-profit in Chicago that offers this kind of assistance.

Frances Flowers decided to share her story to honor her beloved daughter, to raise awareness for Chicago Survivors and to send a message to all women, so that what happened to Taylor, doesn’t happen to anyone else.

Frances Flowers shows some pictures of her daughter Taylor and her grandbaby Avah in a photo album. (MEDILL/Iacopo Luzi)

Androids Always Escape of Chris Zabriskie is an authorised song by Creative Commons Attribution (

Fantasy and glass breathe life into art

By Iacopo Luzi

Riverside is a small Cook County village where time seems to have stopped. Street lights powered by gas still line the sidewalks. A small business, that’s been around since 1948, still produces glass art. The studio’s brochure calls it a place where “miracles are done with everyday glass.”

Higgins Glass celebrates it’s 68th birthday this year. Michael Higgins and his wife Frances started the company to make art. Today, their works are sold around the world. Some Higgins pieces are even on display in famous museums around the United States and Europe. But the glass is still sold for every price range.

“Because art must be for everyone”, says Jonathan Wimmer, an artist who works at the studio.

Michael and Frances Higgins passed away years ago, but their legacy is carried on by the Wimmer family. The Wimmers  worked with the Higgins for decades. The original style and glass making technique hasn’t changed.

Some of the Higgins glass artworks at their studio, in Riverside (Iacopo Luzi/MEDILL)


By Iacopo Luzi

Watch the Medill Reports News Update. This week our reporters talk about a new proposed regulation that could affect the way Airbnb  does business in Chicago. We see how one of the city’s oldest pizza restaurants goes green. Finally, we take a tour of Chicago’s Swedish American Museum on its 40th anniversary.

The entrance of Marcello’s Father & Son Italian Restaurant at 2475 N Milwaukee Ave (Caley Chelios/MEDILL)

A flight to honor U.S. veterans

By Iacopo Luzi

Honor Flight Chicago is a non-profit that organizes trips to Washington D.C. war memorials for WWII and Korean War veterans. Thanks to Honor Flight‘s efforts, more than six thousand vets have flown from Chicago Midway Airport to the nation’s capital since 2008.

These flights give many veterans the first opportunity of their lives to visit the memorials and be honored for their service to the country.

Thanks to the hard work of volunteers, the group organizes flights once a month from the beginning of spring to the end of October. The flights are free for the veterans. They’re given the chance to meet old friends and remember those who didn’t make it back home.

Mary Pettinato, Honor Flight CEO, says, “It’s a way to thank them for all they did for us”.

A group of veterans waiting to board a flight to Washington D.C. (Iacopo Luzi/MEDILL)

When a Chicago Radio Station becomes a mouthpiece for activism

By Iacopo Luzi

Que4 Radio is more than just another Chicago radio station.

It’s a place where people can share ideas, develop solidarity, and promote diversity.  The community station shares independent music and independent thoughts.

Located on North Elston Avenue, Que4 Radio broadcasts its music and the voice of its radio hosts every day. “It’s a chance to give voice of unheard people,” says Mr. Money Rogers, who hosts a show in the morning called Band Nation along with CEO Trey Gee and deejay JT Da Don.

The show, one of the most popular at Que4 Radio,  is a mix of music, serious talk and phone pranks. “We tried to make a show that was unique with its own style,”says Trey Gee.

Que4Radio is also a point of reference in Chicago for activism. The staff at the 1680 am station say they are for the people and by the people. They work hard to promote many activities to improve Chicago, like ending violence.

Trey Gee, Mr. Money Rogers and Jt Da Don during their radio show called “Band Nation” (Iacopo Luzi/MEDILL)

Still Dancing at 82: The story of Vito Bertucci

By Iacopo Luzi

Vito Bertucci was once considered one of the most famous ballroom dancers in the United States. He performed in Las Vegas and New York, but never wanted to move out of Chicago. “I have my group here and I didn’t want to leave them alone,” says Bertucci.

Today, the 82 year old is still a professional dancer and instructor.

Bertucci says his doctors can’t believe his vitality and stamina. “Just a lot of stretching, exercise and a little secret”, he says.

According to Bertucci, his passion for dance keeps him young. He and his dance partner Carol Werkmeister, are one of the oldest dancing couples of the world . Every year they perform together at many public events.

“What keeps you young is not your body, but your spirit” says Bertucci, “That’s the only thing that really makes the difference”.

Vito Bertucci and his dancing partner Carol Werkmeister, posing at the end of their dancing exhibition (Iacopo Luzi/MEDILL)

Italian food and culture helped shape the history of Cook County

By Iacopo Luzi

According to the last U.S. census, 18,000 Italians live in Cook County. That number includes Italian immigrants and Italians born in the United States. The group makes up the second largest European population in Cook County, just after the Polish.

Giuseppe Quercia, from Naples, Campania, moved to the United States in 1968 with his family. Today he owns Freddy’s Pizzeria, in Cicero. Every day a line of costumers forms at his pizza business to buy his Italian food, but life in America wasn’t always easy for him.

Quercia recalls arriving in Chicago without speaking a word of English. Despite years of dealing with prejudice and stereotypes, he was eventually able to buy Freddy’s Pizzeria. It was a huge accomplishment, considering he originally started working there as a 13 year old shop boy.

“I was able to take orders, but if I had had a discussion, I would have been lost”, says Quercia.

Giuseppe Quercia’s Italian immigrant story is just one of many in Cook County. Since the beginning of the 19th century, Italians contributed to growth of the region, thanks to their culture and particularly, their passion for good food.

Giuseppe Quercia shows one of his specialties: the Margherita Pizza (Iacopo Luzi/MEDILL)