Pilsen: The Midwest Heart of Mexico

By: Lauryn Daniel

Kimberly Ovitz first fell in love with the Pilsen neighborhood when she was just the tender age of 6 visiting the National Museum of Mexican art.

Now 16 years later, she is a 22 – year – old college student at DePaul University who frequently visits the neighborhood to eat, shop, meet new people, and loves the authenticity the community offers.

Pilsen is “A mix of cultural heritage…A lot of independent businesses’ rising…the people are nice,” Pilsen said.

With a population of more than 44,000 people, new immigrants and college students are among the many people who have fallen in love with the atmosphere that Pilsen offers.

On the South Side of Chicago Pilsen is filled with a large art district, plenty of Mexican restaurants, and tight-knit family ties.

Some examples of the attractions in Pilsen are the National Museum of Mexican Art, murals on 16th Street, and restaurants such as Nuevo Leon, Taqueria Los Comales, and bakery Don Churro.

Religion plays a very prominent role in the community. However, many are moving away from the Catholic Church and more Protestant and Evangelical churches are opening in Pilsen, according to Ralph Braseth, a 55 year old professor at Loyola University who has done research on Pilsen.

“In 1860, this was a Czechoslovakian neighborhood… After the Czechs were other Eastern Europeans,” he said.

However, in the 1960s, the district got more populated with Mexican immigrants when they were forced to move for the building of the university of Illinois at Chicago.

The boundaries of this neighborhood became 16th Street to the north, Cermak Road to the south, Halsted Street to the east, and Western Avenue to the west.

The promise of the neighborhood has caught the attention of many developers. On the downside, some are concerned what this means for lower income families and how these developments will affect the culture of Pilsen.

“My hope for the area is it can remain authentic and genuine. A lot of places like Lincoln Park have become so commercial. ” Ovitz said.

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