Pilsen: Bridging the Gap

By: Natalie DeRoche

The struggle to find a balance between old and new is a familiar one to urban places, such as Chicago.

Zarai Zaragoza, 20, has been renting property with her family in the West Side neighborhood of Pilsen her whole life. Now, Pilsen’s gentrification is raising property value and rent.

“We have debated moving a couple of times just because it’s been getting very expensive. But we have just continued working,” Zaragoza said.

Pilsen is no stranger to change. What started off as a neighborhood for Czech immigrants evolved into what is now a mainly Mexican demographic. Pilsen is located between Cermak Road, Ashland Avenue, 16th Street, and Halsted Street and home to roughly 35,769 residents, according to the latest census.

Gilberto Sandoval, 22, is another resident of Pilsen who is conflicted about the gentrification in Pilsen, specifically how the change is manifesting itself in force rather than willingness. As a general educator at the National Museum of Mexican Art, Sandoval has found that art can be a way of preserving the authenticity of Pilsen while incorporating modern aspects.

“It’s a strange dynamic, especially for young people in the neighborhood,” Sandoval said. “Being in the middle of a metropolitan area… there’s a lot of internal conflict, which is why I work here.”

Gentrification is a very complex issue, and frequently young people find themselves caught between wanting to explore the changes, while also wanting to hold on to the authenticity that they grew up with.

However, it is often the younger citizens, like Zaragoza and Sandoval that are able to bridge the gap.

“It’s fun, there’s this night life, there’s restaurants, and cafes… that didn’t really exist before.” Sandoval said, “But at the same time those cafes were mom and pop restaurants or small grocery stores, things like that. So it’s a strange dynamic.”

 

 

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