By: Brenda Cervantes
Chicago’s neighborhood Pilsen, is all about the delicious restaurants, the inspiring and colorful murals on buildings, but most importantly the atmosphere of the Hispanic culture. Pilsen has historically been Chicago’s first stop for American immigrants. First came immigrants from Bohemia and later those from Mexico. Within the last few years, Pilsen has faced dramatic changes. In 2008 they foreclosed homes, short sales, and began renting to a wealthier crowd. This lead to over 10,000 Hispanics leaving the neighborhood. Hispanic-owned businesses have been replaced by cafes, bars, and businesses like Giordano’s and Furious Spoon. These businesses target a whiter demographic.
This change increased the cost of living; two years ago, homes were selling for $300,000 that now run for $500,000. It’s the same with rentals. Before, the average rent ran for around $600 and now a 2-bedroom apartment runs for $1,500. Alejandro Lopez grew up in Pilsen until the age of 14 and continues to visit the neighborhood because of his grandparents who have been living in Pilsen since 1977. “I noticed a changed when I saw more people riding bikes” he said. In addition, a Gino’s East was opened about a year ago on Alejandro’s grandparents block on 18th street. “You do not see Hispanics go in Gino’s East, it is mostly white people.” Setting up bike lanes and opening new developments welcomes wealthier newcomers.
Perhaps this change should not be gentrification, but viewed as a benefit for the neighborhood. In 2000 a total of 2,486 crimes were committed, after 10 years this decreased by 1,286 crimes. Welcoming economic developments does not necessarily mean the neighborhood is completely changing, it changes for the working class and community to grow. There are chances for the neighborhood to grow and residents to feel safer.
Pilsen expresses Hispanic culture through their businesses and humble of the community. “Everyone knows everyone in the neighborhood, it feels alive by the people” said Lopez. There comes a time when it is ready for a change, but do not forget the historical background of the neighborhood. Pilsen’s background shows consideration to what made Pilsen in the first place. Pilsen always thrives for their community. The Pilsen Alliance and other organization groups support the neighborhood by fighting for rent control and seeking for Pilsen’s future.