Panaderías, Paint, and People: Pilsen

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Staircase art located at the subway station in Pilsen, Chicago.

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Church that has been painted by street artists.

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Fresh produce in a local grocery store.

By: Sasha Keenan

It is easy to feel alone when enclosed in the vast streets and endless bustle of downtown Chicago.

However, just outside and slightly to the west lies Pilsen, a tightly woven community that can make nearly anyone feel at home.

Mallery Juarez, 15, one of the 43,000 inhabitants of Pilsen, loves where she lives because of the people.  “They’re nice, you know everybody where you live.” Juarez said, an observation she has drawn from her whole life in the neighborhood.

Extending from 16th Street, to Cermak Road, to Halsted Street, to Western Avenue, Pilsen embodies the essence of traditional Mexican culture and provides a satisfying experience for tourists and residents alike.

Yasmin Alvarez, 17, a cashier at a local grocery , witnesses the qualities of her neighborhood from behind the register daily.

According to Alvarez, Pilsen is unique through its people’s ability to voice their opinions through mediums, such as art.

“ The way the artists express themselves” is what Alvarez  identified as the most special thing about her community.

In the 1950s, many Mexicans  that moved to Pilsen carried their mural art traditions along with them.

Large murals and street art adorn the streets, many of which tell stories.

Amongst these streets as well are a number of iconic restaurants, some of which have been serving up authentic Mexican food for decades.

For many, the food is the most noteworthy of Pilsen’s features.

13-year-old Aalyah Calderon shared that she not only enjoys the food, but also considers food a way to bond with friends.

“We hang out at places like Pizza Nova and Speedy’s,” Calderon said.

It is clear that almost every Pilsen native has something in common; an undeniable desire to preserve the distinctive culture of Mexico in a city that is rapidly progressing.

Through the presence of art, food, and close-knit people, the community of Pilsen remains a cultural gem.

Arianna Porras, 27, recognizes this: “There is a strong cultural influence here.”

 

 

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