Nick Speziale

By Nick Speziale

THE GENTRIFICATION OF PILSEN

On the West Side of Chicago, there lies a neighborhood known as Pilsen. For over 50 years, the town has been predominately Hispanic and has been a Chicago staple since the 1840s.

But in recent years, there has been a great amount of dissention among the community. Wealthier people (typically of non-Hispanic origin) have begun moving in to Pilsen, and the rent has gone up. Therefore, the less wealthy people are unable to remain, and must move out. This is the origin of gentrification in Pilsen.

Gentrification occurs when wealthy people move into an area that is often seen as low-class or deteriorating. They then inhabit the town and fix it up for themselves. This raises property values, and rent, and forces some people out.

“Years ago you could rent an apartment for $250 to $300 a month, now a days the rent is $1000 and the people can’t afford because the students are coming in and they have to raise it because times change,” Aurelio Barrios, age 69, a longtime resident, said.

The gentrification in Pilsen has split the community, with two main ideas: First, that the gentrification has caused the neighborhood to become safer and better for living, and second, that the gentrification has resulted in the loss of culture that made Pilsen what it is.

Some of the people of Pilsen favor the first side of the spectrum.

“It didn’t kill the culture, no I think I’ve actually seen more of it,” said Charles Roberts, age 40, a resident of Pilsen.

Ernesto Avina, manager of a family-owned tortilla chip company, said “From what I heard it’s definitely safer than it was back then, it’s probably due to the influx of business that have sprouted this year.”

 

In their attempt to protest the changes, the people of the town have rallied behind a simple phrase: “Pilsen Is Not For Sale” Aurelio Barrios wanted to maintain a more neutral stance on the issue: “Pilsen is changing and it’s gonna keep changing.”

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