The Spirit of Pilsen

By Kristen Daly

Once a Czech community, Pilsen is now booming with Hispanic culture and life. From residents sitting out on their steps, to workers in their shops, to vendors on the streets, the stories of the people of Pilsen unfolds before one’s eyes.

The boundaries of Pilsen are roughly 16th Street, Cermak Road, Halsted Street and Western Avenue. These boundaries are home to many close-knit Latino families.

Evan Erral, 43, has lived in Pilsen for only a year, but he proudly calls it home.

“Every single weekend in the summer you can turn the street corner and something will be going on,” Evan said.

The population of Pilsen is 43,338. Some especially interesting places in Pilsen are the National Museum of Mexican Art, and the Hull House Museum. An event called 2nd Fridays Gallery Night is hosted by the Chicago Arts District to showcase artists from Chicago and outside of the city as well. The Fiesta Del Sol is the biggest summer event in Pilsen, it goes from July 25 to the 28. It generates revenue to the community and businesses, promotes the community, provides the youth with scholarships, creates jobs for the local youth and is a major fundraiser for schools and other local organizations. Last year over 1.3 million attended.

Jose Santoval, 38, has lived in Pilsen all his life and his family moved here when he was young. He works at Tortilleria Sabinas as loader and boxer. He sees the future of Pilsen as a community that’s “changing for the better.” His dad had also worked at the tortilla company and that’s why they moved to Pilsen with the tortilla factory.

“[Pilsen] is really bonded.” Santoval said. “You go down the street, pass some white people, maybe they say hi, maybe not. You pass some people in Pilsen, they stop and talk to you, total strangers, tell you about themselves.”

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