News Broadcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FCliPb6cZ4
Radio Show: https://soundcloud.com/user-909075099/the-blonde-and-the-blue
Chinatown Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJdCciOoupU
Pilsen Slideshow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHIIkTOPjWQ
A museum tour guide’s favorite childhood art building closes down and is replaced with a pizza chain. An elderly woman purchases a house outside of the neighborhood she raised her family in because mortgage there is cheaper than the rent she’s paid all her life. A custodian at the local gym simply loves learning about new culture and people. In Pilsen, gentrification is affecting people from all walks of life in very different ways.
“The change from this summer to last summer is drastic,” said Gilberto Sandoval, 22, a museum tour guide at National Museum of Mexican Art. “There’s a ton of new people that we see in the neighborhood, non-Mexican people. It’s crazy because we’ve seen the change happen for the past 10 years, but I swear to you, this summer, there’s been a big burst of newcomers.”
Pilsen is a neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago with a predominantly Mexican population of about 36,000 people. The neighborhood is surrounded 16th Street to the north, Cermak Road to the south, Halsted Street to the east, and Western Avenue to the west. It’s easily accessible by the Pink Line and multiple bus routes.
Pilsen was originally founded by European immigrants, but as time went on, those immigrants moved to the suburbs and were replaced by Mexican immigrants.
“The Eastern Europeans brought their businesses and when they left Mexicanos brought resturants and fruit stands. But they also brought their murals and muralism and that culture,” Sandoval said. “The murals are still here but they have changed, adapting to the newcomers in the neighborhood.”
Gentrification has caused positives and negatives in the neighborhood.
“For my mother, no, gentrification hasn’t helped the neighborhood because maybe it brought crime rates down, but it also brought her living costs up.” Sandoval said. “Her existence is no longer viable here. For someone who owns the house it’s great. It definitely depends on who you are and what your relationship is to the neighborhood.”
Some Pilsen residents notice more positive change.
“The change I have seen is that I have more freedom to walk wherever knowing that I was born and raised here in this neighborhood. For me, it’s safe,” Frank Gellegos, park district custodian, 53, said.
Gentrification is inevitable because it is already in process. In order to try and stop it, the current inhabitants would have to buy the houses that are for sale or be able to afford the higher rent, which is impossible for some. “There is tension within the neighborhood and people are theoretically fighting it but it has been a different thing to physically fight,” Sandoval said.
Some inhabitants have taken a different approach and have supported the newcomers.
“I can’t say that they’re pushing us out, I would say they’re teaching us. Because how would I know what kind of food you like or how would you know what kinda food I like,” Gellegos said. “I embrace people, and that’s me. I found that gets me really far.”
Despite the different opinions and the tension within the neighborhood, the majority of inhabitants believe that Pilsen is here to stay no matter what.
“The Mexican-ness is gonna be present,” Sandoval said. “I think that institutions like this institution, the restaurants, the murals, and even the Mexicanos that bought property will anchor this culture here even if it changes.”