Gentrification in Pilsen

By Liz Bigham

Pilsen is known as a gateway for Mexican-Americans full of detailed murals, empowering posters, and family owned markets.

Yet a Dunkin Donuts sits right in the center of the community.

Pilsen is a prime example of the gentrification.

Just a train ride away on the Loop from downtown Chicago is the cultural community of Pilsen.  It’s a traditional neighborhood between Little Village and Bridgeport with a population 36,000.

Since 2010, there has been a 26 percent drop in Hispanic population and a 22 percent increase in white population, according to DNA Info.

One reason for the growth of whites is the neighboring students from University of Illinois at Chicago are lured by the cheap rent prices.

Marvin Marines, 22, is a UIC student who has been living in Pilsen for the past three years due to the close proximity of the campus.  He said he is familiar with the changes occurring in the city.

“In a way the change is good because it is bringing in more people that can contribute to revenue for the neighborhood,” Marines said. “It increases modernization.”

He also sees it as gentrification because the town is losing some of the culture it has, he said.

“It use to be big on art, you can still see that, but it is definitely changing,” Marines said.

The change in Pilsen is causing clothing store manager Charles Roberts, 40, to move out of the town because of the high rent.

“It’s unfortunate that people are getting priced out of the neighborhood,” Roberts said.

He has witnessed the revelations bringing the crime rate down and offering more variety in stores. He doesn’t agree that the change has killed the culture, he said.

“A lot of it has been for the sake of visitors and tourism,” Roberts said.

When he moved to Pilsen ten years ago there weren’t any sugar skulls, which are Day of the Dead decorations. Now they are all over the place, said Roberts.

“I really like this neighborhood and the community, but it’s getting harder and harder to find places that are affordable,” Roberts said.



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