China Town Cuisine
Gentrification in Pilsen
By Nick Caputo
Frank Gallegos, a 53-year-old worker at a Pilsen park, has been a resident of Pilsen for his entire life. He has noticed a great deal of positive change occurring in the neighborhood over the years. As a child he was constantly in the presence of gangs and violence; now he feels that his daughter and himself “have more freedom to walk wherever without a problem … I feel safe in this neighborhood. ” Gallegos wants to help the children of the neighborhood experience new things and help them grow as people. Gallegos thinks that the new residents coming to Pilsen are “teaching [the residents] not pushing [them] out.”
Many others do not support the change as Gallegos does. Pilsen is a traditionally hispanic neighborhood in the West Side of Chicago. It is the community surrounded by 16th Street, Cermak Road, Halsted Street, and Western Avenue.
Recently, there has been conflict in Pilsen surrounding the increase in white people moving in and Hispanic people moving out. Unlike Gallegos’ view on the reformed community, 23-year-old museum worker Gilberto Sandoval feels as if the new community has had a negative effect on the culture and tradition in Pilsen.
“A big selling point of [Pilsen] was its Mexican community. When you push out that Mexican community it is bad for business, you loose the selling point. . . it is easy to displace the people but not easy to displace the culture,” he said.
This increase in the white population is known as gentrification; gentrification can be described as a trend in urban neighborhoods, which results in increased property values and the displacing of lower-income families and small businesses. Within the last few years, there has been a 27 percent increase in the white population compared to a 26 percent decrease of the Hispanic residents.
Sandoval described how older businesses in the community were being replaced with franchises. He recalls that a non-for-profit art program that he attended as a child was forced to close and is now a Giordano’s Pizza. Sandoval said that it was a good investment for the businesses to come to Pilsen but “whether the changes are in [Pilsen’s] best interest or not is unclear.”