Pilsen: The Perspective of the People

By Grace Rodi

Stepping off the CTA Pink Line into Pilsen, visitors notice a few scenes of the artful neighborhood. A man selling fruit from his truck is perched on a corner. Across from him stands a Spanish bakery.

However, Pilsen takes on a different look when a new Dunkin Donuts is observed.

Gentrification has taken hold of Pilsen in recent years, and citizens are speaking out on the effects.

Bordered by 16th street on the north and Cermak Road on the south, Pilsen started as a predominantly Czech neighborhood. Hispanics did not begin occupying the area until the early 1960s.

Since then, the changes have come at full force. With gentrification, the population of 35,769 has noticed a 26 percent drop in Hispanics since 2000, according to dnainfo.com

While at first glance gentrification may come off as a negative, citizens have varied takes on it.

“Gentrification is a word that is thrown around a lot, but it is also about trends and availability…. We are going through changes just like every area in the city,” said Carlos Lourenzo, 38, owner of the clothing store Knee Deep.

Many question if the influx of franchises will change the authenticity of the neighborhood, but maintain a positive outlook.

“It is good that franchises have opened. They bring tourists that come a lot. That is good for us,” said Sonja Sandoval, 40, owner of Librería Giron.

It is not all positives, however.

“Rent has gone up, a lot. We debated moving recently,” says Zarai Zaragoza, 20, who works with her family at Jazmin Flowers and Balloons. The construction of new condominiums has raised the value of properties across Pilsen.

Whatever the changes, people who call Pilsen home keep a large sense of place and a driven attitude.

“I think it will always remain Hispanic, and that will never change,” said Lourenzo. “We value our sense of community.”

 

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