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Chicagoans Raise Nearly $50,000 For Claudio Velez AKA ‘The Tamale Guy’ After Velez Contracted Coronavirus

Colby Smith Colby Smith

Chicagoans Raise Nearly $50,000 For Claudio Velez AKA ‘The Tamale Guy’ After Velez Contracted Coronavirus

Velez’s condition is improving according to a family friend.

Chicago’s beloved Tamale Guy, Claudio Velez, has gone through a rollercoaster ride these last months. In what appeared to be a breakthrough for Velez — opening his restaurant and fulfilling a lifelong dream — took a dark turn when the 55-year old contracted the coronavirus. Due to severity of his condition, Velez was put on a ventilator. While Velez undergoes treatment, a friend has since created a Go Fund Me page to help with his family medical bills. In support of Velez, Chicagoans have since raised nearly $50,000.

News of Velez’s illness dropped this weekend, and quickly spread through media channels. It was harrowing news, for as many knew, Velez had just opened his first restaurant in Ukrainian Square — fulfilling a lifelong dream. The first day his store opened, Velez sold out before the end of the day.

A few weeks later, Velez took some time off work after experiencing a sore throat. After then, things rapidly declined:

“We are very sad to inform everyone that Claudio has tested positive for Covid-19. He had a sore throat earlier in the week and has not been at the restaurant,” Kristin Vega, organizer of Velez’s Go Fund Me page wrote.

“While waiting for his test results his health rapidly declined within a couple days. He was admitted to the ICU and put on a ventilator. His rapid test performed at the hospital confirmed a positive Covid result.”

According to Vega, Velez’s condition is improving. However, Velez will have to face mounting medical bills upon his release. In order to help Velez and his family with his hospital bills, Vega started the Go Fund Me page with the goal of $20,000, which in just two days, has nearly reached $50,000 from 1,800 individual donors.

“We are closing the restaurant until further notice to make sure our team is taking the proper safety precautions. We have been truly overwhelmed by everyone’s support and kindness over the last few weeks. Please keep Claudio in your thoughts and wish him a speedy recovery.”

Before spring of 2020, Claudio Velez was a constant in the Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town, and Logan Square night scene. He was a sight for sore eyes and hungry bellies, as Velez ,dubbed “The Tamale Guy” would feed local patrons with homemade tamales from his iconic red cooler.

When the pandemic hit, Velez continued his business with deliveries to a small group of clientele. After an incident in the West Loop community garden, a complaint lead to the city hitting him with a cease-and-desist. From then, Velez stopped his business all together.In an effort to support Velez and his family, a concerned friend brought his message to the masses with a similar Go Fund Me page. That page raised over $30,000 in just a few days.

Part of those funds went into Velez’s recently opened restaurant in the Ukrainian Village, which has since closed in the wake of Velez’s condition. [Featured image: @tamaleguychicago]

See more: Citywide Contest Is Asking Chicagoans How To Encourage Safe Outdoor Dining During The Winter