The World Cup in Pilsen, Chicago

By: Valentina Marie Diaz

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Fans watching the Brazil vs. Mexico game at the National Museum of Mexico.

This is not just any ordinary summer day in Pilsen. It is the summer of “World Cup Soccer” as Brazil hosts the 2014 games.

Enthusiasm thrives in Pilsen as these residents cheer on their favorite teams to victory. Locals haven’t missed out on the “gran fiesta” that the World Cup has created in their neighborhood and throughout the world.

“!Que Viva Mexico!” “I am going for Team Mexico since I am a loyal Mexican,” said Angel Cortina, 35, a grocery worker, who has lived in Pilsen for eight years.

In Pilsen, team Mexico is by far the most popular team, and on this day Team Mexico plays the host team, Team Brazil in a win or die match.

The people in Pilsen seem to scream a little bit louder than usual, and proudly wear soccer shirts to show-off their patriotic pride as they cluster together in quaint cafes, bodegas and panaderias along the Chicago River to watch their teams as they advance through the brackets.

Pilsen is a Hispanic neighborhood on the Lower West Side of Chicago. Pilsen got its name from immigrants that came from the Czech Republic in the late 19th century.

Over the years, Latinos, more specifically Mexicans, have populated the neighborhood and make up 82 percent of its 43,000 residents.

It is evident by the colorful Aztec-like murals along the streets and local landmarks. The boundaries of Pilsen are the 16th Street, north; the Cermak Road, south; the Halsted Street, east; and the Western Avenue, west.

But on this day, residents weren’t interested in the artwork or the cuisine in Pilsen. Instead, they were focused on Futbol.

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With Mexico’s #1 fan, Malleri Juarez, at the park in Pilsen, Chicago.

“The beauty of the World Cup is to follow the team of your liking, but at the same time, these fans follow other teams as well. This allows the fans to gain an understanding of other cultures and learn the traditions of other people,” said Roberto Mandalas, 57, who was born in Mexico, but lived in Pilsen for the past 47 years.

“Let’s go Mexico guys! The FIFA for me is a way to have your family come together and celebrate. It gives them a reason to show off their pride of where they come from.” said Marlleri Juarez, 15, who has lived in Pilsen her entire life and wears her Team Mexico shirt with pride.

Regardless of who wins the World Cup, Pilsen will remain with its Latino roots firmly planted in the ground of the lower West side of Chicago, and provide a sanctuary for locals to gather to cheer on their favorite soccer teams and open their eyes to other culture.

“What I like best about the World Cup is that all the countries can play a civilized game of soccer with one another.” said Ricardo Ortiz, 18, a visitor of Pilsen. “This is a positive way for the world to unite peacefully and celebrate as one family.”

 

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