By Emily Martinbianco
Escaping the hustle of the city within the West Side of Chicago, the heavily Mexican-American neighborhood of Pilsen is evolving to become more welcoming to the public. The community is now opening up through iconic art in the streets and in its food.
Locals frequent the park and the streets beside the festively painted buildings and unique storefronts. With traces of the original Czechoslovakian neighborhood vanished, the laid back and heavily Mexican influenced neighborhood of Pilsen inches its way towards becoming a more alluring place for visitors.
“Every second Friday they have this art thing where you walk down 18th street and the galleries are open and they have wine,” said Ariana Porras, 27, an employee of the National Museum of Mexican Art.
“They try to make it both for adults and at the same time they focus on the community as well so it’s friendly for both. You could bring your kid and you could roam around and look at the galleries,” Porras said.
Yesmin Alvarez,17, grocery store cashier, has been a part of the change towards a family oriented neighborhood.
“Little by little, we are changing stuff and making it a place where people are welcome. We get a lot of families and people from different areas,” Alvarez said, “We get a lot of customers who are new and want to get to know Pilsen. We usually get a lot of people who aren’t from around here.”
The neighborhood of about 43,000 people is bounded by 16th Street, Cermak Road, Halsted Street and Western Avenue, and is known for unique murals, the National Museum of Mexican Art and authentic Mexican food.
“We have one of the best Mexican restaurants in the community… when people come outside (their usual places) they want to eat something ethnic so they expect that,” Porras said
Although evolving, the neighborhood sticks to its roots with in the original culture of this long-standing Mexican village.
“I’ve been working here for seven or eight years. I actually started with this business when the owner of this business had another grocery store and I was only 10 years old,” Alvarez said, “The food has always been authentic.”