By: Katherine Tortorella
Frank Gallegos, 53, a resident of Pilsen his whole life, remembers the fear he felt as a child.
“I remember having to run home from school so I wouldn’t get in trouble, hiding under cars because they were shooting,” he said.
Now he feels safer, as the neighborhood is undergoing changes.
“I have more freedom to walk wherever without a problem knowing that for me it’s safe,” he said.
Throughout the past 10 years, the neighborhood of Pilsen, located on Chicago’s West Side, has been facing gentrification. Gentrification has increased value of the property in the neighborhood, however, it also has driven up rents. This has forced the displacement of some families who can’t afford the rent.
Pilsen is a neighborhood which originally was home to immigrants from the Czech Republic. Gradually, the neighborhood turned into an enclave for those of Mexican descent. In the beginning of their residency, the neighborhood was a way for Mexican immigrants to find cheap living expenses and be surrounded by their culture. Now with gentrification, they see their culture slipping away from them due to the addition of “trendy” shops and cafes.
Pilsen, with a population of 36,000 people, is bounded by 16h Street on the north, Cermak Road on the south, Halsted Street on the east, and Western Avenue on the west.
Located next to the CTA Pink Line as well, Pilsen is in a prime location for young residents to live while still being just a train ride away from the heart of Chicago.
Students from the University of Illinois at Chicago also have an interest of being in Pilsen due to the still cheap renting costs compared to the cost of on-campus dorms.
Gilberto Sandoval, 22, general museum educator at the National Museum of Mexican Art, was raised in Pilsen and is still a resident. He expresses some concerns about the gentrification of the community.
“It’s easy to displace people”, he said, “but it’s really difficult to displace the people without displacing the culture.”