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Jose Amaya assists with Hero Street documentary

Hero Street plaqueIt’s a rare individual who isn’t inspired by stories of courage and character. When those stories take on epic proportions, they often become destined for a much larger audience. Such is the case with the story of Hero Street in Silvis, IL.

Marshalltown Community College Humanities Faculty Dr. Jose Amaya was interviewed earlier this month by Marc Wilson for a Fourth Wall Films historical documentary entitled “Riding the Rails to Hero Street.” Dr. Amaya is a Fulbright Scholar who previously taught Latino Studies at Iowa State University, and he helped put the Hero Street story within the larger context of Mexican and U.S. history in the early 1900s for the filmmakers.

“A few years ago, I was introduced to Hero Street in Silvis, IL,” says Dr. Amaya. “Long story, but the short version is that 57 Mexican-American men enlisted in the U.S. military to fight in World War II. They were all from Hero Street, a one-and-a-half block long street in Silvis. Amazingly, only 22 families lived on this street. It wasn’t named Hero Street then, but the city renamed the street in 1969 to honor the men who enlisted.” To date, Hero Street has provided more than 100 service members since Mexican-American immigrants settled there in 1929.

Dr. Amaya visited Hero Street in 2008 when he worked as Hy-Vee’s Director of Diversity. He loved the story and the history there, and encouraged the Silvis Hy-Vee store director to donate to a memorial, which he says the store director was happy to do. “I always felt I’d hear more about Hero Street somehow,” he says. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when he was approached to provide historical background on Mexican-American migration to Iowa and Illinois (specifically the Quad Cities area) by Kelly and Tammy Rundle, who run a small film company (Fourth Wall Films) in Illinois.

“The Rundles are making a new documentary on the Hero Street men and their story,” says Dr. Amaya. “I was truly honored to be interviewed, and I mean that, because eight of these men made the supreme sacrifice in a country, a state, and even a city that occasionally discriminated against them, their families, and their culture. They didn’t ask questions … they just served. Their lives and their legacy make me proud to be an American.” The documentary won’t be out for months, but it’s anticipated to air on PBS in Illinois or Iowa. Additional information is online at

“The Rundles know what they’re doing with this incredible story. It’s a rare American tale that deserves to be told, and I hope it gets the attention it deserves. I’ve suggested that it be shown in Marshalltown and Ames, and perhaps in more unlikely venues like libraries and schools. The Orpheum Theater Center also comes to mind, particularly since the Rundles filmed ‘Movie Star: The Secret Lives of Jean Seberg’ and have screened films in that theater before.”

According to the website, Emmy-nominated filmmakers Kelly and Tammy Rundle “will explore the personal and family sagas behind (eight of) the heroes and tell the compelling true story of an ongoing struggle to memorialize Tony Pompa, Frank Sandoval, William Sandoval, Claro Soliz, Peter Masias, Joseph Sandoval, Joseph Gomez and John S. Muños.”

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