Andrew Schoonover – Loyola Summer Stories


Andrew John Schoonover

Saint Thomas Aquinas High School

-Overland Park, KS-

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Pilsen Writing

By Andrew Schoonover 

Frank Gallegos, 53, has spent a lifetime in Pilsen. From running home from school in his youth to avoid gangs, to raising a family in the historical neighborhood, Gallegos has witnessed the highs and lows of Pilsen. 

“There’s a lot of strong families who have survived the neighborhood through all of the problems that have passed,” Gallegos said. 

Despite all of these great victories, Gallegos and the whole community of Pilsen is bracing for yet another battle: gentrification. 

The neighborhood has received battle scars from this war. Big name chains have invaded buildings once owned by locals. The Catholic church, once a key staple of the community, scheduled to be knockdowned and crumbling. In many spots on the streets, people have spray painted the phrase “Pilsen is not for sale”

Pilsen is working to adapt to the gentrification. Despite the relationship and memories people have made with the community, many cannot do anything to save their neighborhood where they were born, raised, and have worked to make a better place. However each resident has a different perspective as to whether this gentrification is benefiting or hurting the neighborhood. 

Pilsen is on the West Side of Chicago with a population of roughly 36,000 residents. Although it is predominantly a Mexican community, the area has Czech roots. Bordered to the north by 16th Street, the south by Cermak Road, the east by Halsted Street, and to the west by Western Avenue, the residents have worked to make Pilsen a better place for them to live and work.  

Each culture has left a mark on the neighborhood, whether it be the Czech style of architecture or the artwork from the Mexicans. During the 1950s and 1960s, the Czech immigrants were replaced with Mexican immigrants. Today the Mexican majority still reigns, but yet another shift may be coming. Pilsen is becoming gentrified once again, this time by upscale, modern restaurants and housing. 

“This summer is the worst change that we have seen,” said Gilberto Sandoval, 22, worker at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen. “For the past 10 years, it has been happening visibly.” 

Sandoval said that the Mexican culture is changing with the new people. However, Sandoval said that this change is definitely benefitting him as a 22 year old. He said that he enjoys the new, trendy bars and restaurants coming in, even though he misses the old “mom and pop” restaurants.  Whether the change is helping the community as a whole is still unclear. 

Despite all of the people being forced from the community, long time residents are still doing what they have always done: helping the community. 

“I always say you have to give back to the community, you have to give back somehow,” Gallegos said. “I can’t say they are pushing us out, I would say they are teaching us. I embrace people, and that gets me really far.”



People of Chinatown


Broadcast – Week Recap


WLUW Radio Show


Samuel Koller

Pilsen Article

By Sam Koller

Ty Kolup came to Pilsen in 1981 at the age of 17. Kolup came to Pilsen so his son could enter the Chicago Public Schools early start program, where children can get help developing from an early age. Although “Everyone was in a gang…we stuck it out,” Kolup said.

His patience has paid off: Now Pilsen is experiencing gentrification, with new shops, restaurants and homes.

“Before there were gangs, now there are no more,” Kolup said in his self-owned mechanic shop.

The neighborhood of Pilsen can be found on the West Side of Chicago and is noted for its vibrant murals. It is a colorful community with many shops and restaurants, most being influenced by Mexican culture.

Almost 36,000 people live in Pilsen, many who are from Mexico or from Hispanic descent.

The neighborhood is bounded by 16th Street on the north, Cermack Avenue on the south, The Dan Ryan Expressway to the east, and Western Avenue to the west.

Pilsen was not alway like this, before there were Czech immigrants who came to work in the steel mills and the canals. Their legacy can still be seen through the  Czech names on the buildings.

For a while, the neighborhood had trouble with drugs and gang violence, according to Aurelio Barrio, 69, a longtime resident.

“There was a killing every two weekends,” said Barrio, who claims to having been shot multiple times. Barrio witnessed the rise of rent, but it doesn’t effect him since her owns his home.

“Those who own their property are happy with the rising property values,’ Barrios said. “Those who rent aren’t happy.”

Is Pilsen the Next Lincoln Park?

By: Keith Calloway

Is Pilsen the next Lincoln Park?

“Pilsen is located on the flip-side of where Lincoln Park would be. You could live there for lots of money, or you could live here and have it a little more affordable,” said Carlos Lourenzo, 38, owner of the Knee Deep thrift shop on 18th Street.

Pilsen, located on Chicago’s west side, is becoming a target of gentrification. This can be described as when affluent people move into a working-class neighborhood and increase property value. Consequentially, the original inhabitants of the neighborhood who rent cannot afford to live there and are forced to leave because of the inflated price of rent.

“It’s hard to see my friends have to leave the neighborhood because their families can’t afford it,” said Zarai Zaragoza, 20, who has lived in Pilsen her whole life.

Some may say that the gentrification of Pilsen is causing a loss of authenticity, but Pilsen has undergone changes like this before. The neighborhood’s distinct historical landmarks and history are what makes it authentic in itself, no matter its demographics.

Bordered by 16th Street, Cermak Road, Halsted Street, and Ashland Avenue, Pilsen is one of the most distinctive neighborhoods of Chicago. Historically, Pilsen was a largely Czech neighborhood, named after the Bohemian city of Plzen. But since the 1960s, mainly Mexican immigrants have populated Pilsen.

Today, with 35,769 inhabitants, Pilsen is still Mexican, but is on the verge of another change in demographics. Because of its close proximity to the CTA Pink Line, the Stevenson and Dan Ryan expressways, and downtown Chicago, Pilsen is a prime location for those who want to live close to downtown Chicago without the downtown cost.

Alternatively, some have found upsides to the gentrification of Pilsen. National Museum of Mexican Art tour guide Gilberto Sandoval, 22, said that Pilsen has become increasingly safer since the introduction of University Village, which is used to house students of the University of Illinois at Chicago in the neighboring West Loop. Even though the cost of living is increasing, there is now “night-life” and less violence in Pilsen.

“If this was 1995, I wouldn’t be able to go to a bar on 18th street because I’d get jumped or something,” said Sandoval, reflecting on the gentrification’s impact on crime in Pilsen.

Nick Speziale

By Nick Speziale


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.”

Edgar Flores

Gentrification and it’s Effects in Pilsen:


By Edgar Flores

Charles Roberts, 40, has lived in Pilsen for 10 years and is now manager of a vintage store in the neighborhood.

Franchises such as Dunkin Donuts, Subway, and Giordano’s have come into the neighborhood, along with University of Illinois in Chicago, they have left many looking for a new place to call home.

“I moved here from Boston 10 years ago, it was the only neighborhood I could afford at the time… now it’s not affordable,” Roberts said.

Roberts is one of many Pilsen residents being forced to move out because of gentrification.

Other residents like Ty Kolup, 53, owner of a car wash and a garage liked the idea of gentrification.

“It is good. When gangs were here, every Wednesday we had to go to funerals…. People that are saying Pilsen is not for sale are the rentals, they don’t own property,” Kolup said.

Aurelio Barrios, 69, resident and owner of a small building shared a similar experience.

“When I came here there was a killing about every weekend… Pilsen is changing and it’s gonna keep changing nothing is going to stop.” Barrios said.

Many residents believed that the gentrification was killing the culture.

Roberts believed that if anything, it was helping the culture.

“A lot of it is done for the sake of the tourists, when I moved here there were no sugar skulls in the bakery now they’re all over the place.” He said. (Sugar skulls being a part of the Mexican day of the dead celebrations).

Roberts along with others are going to try to stay in Pilsen as long as possible with the quickly rising prices.

“I’ll stay here as long as I can, because I really like this neighborhood a lot I’m really trying to stay here,” Roberts said. “There are always going to be places that are affordable it’s just getting harder to find them.”



Videos Throughout the Week:

People of China Town

HS Digital Newscast 2016: Edgar, Rachel, and Erin

People of Pilsen


WLUW 88.7 Radio Segment

(Masian Ramblers ft. Edgar Flores and Daniel Xhang)


Kyle Phelps





By Kyle Phelps

With a history spanning over a century, it is no surprise Pilsen has become one of the most desired tourism and living destinations in Chicago.

However, this has not come without controversy.

Pilsen is currently divided on the topic of newcomers in the neighborhood, called gentrification, as it has gradually increased the price of living for working class citizens who may not be able to afford it.

Unfortunately, this has caused some residents to move out due to a spike in their rent. Some citizens of Pilsen, however, are welcoming the younger population with open arms.

The community of roughly 36,000 people located on the West Side of Chicago is holding on strongly to its roots.

Beginning in the early 1970s, Pilsen grew in its Hispanic population rapidly, as the University of Illinois at Chicago caused the teardown of numerous houses.

Ty Kolup, 53, is a longtime resident of Pilsen and welcomes the new residents. He mentions the recent decline in crime and how a majority of those who are protesting gentrification aren’t residents.

“When I came to this neighborhood I took a gamble,” Kolup said. “The people who are protesting do not own property in Pilsen. Fifteen or 20 years ago, the city was bad. When the gangs were here, I’d go to a funeral once or twice a week.”

On the other hand, there has been a sharp rejection of any new people in town. Graffiti making “Pilsen is not for sale” is scattered all through the community.

Aurelio Barrio, 69, is also an established citizen in Pilsen, owning his dad’s barbershop off of the side of the road. He considers the change to be more of a necessary evil. He states that everything changes one way or another.

“We like [the new residents] to a degree, but I don’t like it when they start dictating what everyone should do,” Barrio said. “Things got to change anyway. I’m not going to be here forever.”





Daniel Zhang

Pilsen’s Changes

By Asian Carp

Aurulio Barrios, a 69-year-old who’s lived in Pilsen since 1959, used to know Pilsen as a dangerous place.

“When I came here, there was a killing about every weekend, and there was a lot of fighting going on,” Barrios said.

Barrios’s community is home to 36,000 people, and brings out a vibrant Hispanic culture, making it a unique site of Chicago.

But lately, the town has been facing renovations, blurring its cultural border.

Gentrification has dotted the neighborhood with stores and shops that would normally be seen in the main city, and, as some residents would say, is killing Pilsen’s culture.

One of Pilsen’s attractions is St. Adalbert, a church in the process of being torn down. Many Pilsen residents are against this action. Around the town, people have painted the words “Pilsen is not for sale” in protest against the gentrification acts.

However, there are people who are happy with the effects of the renovations.

Arnesto Avina, a 44-year-old who has worked in Pilsen for 10 years, explains that the renovations in the neighborhood made it safer than before.

“When I came here as a little boy, I used to not hang out outside, but, now, it’s definitely safer than it was back then,” Avina said.

Pilsen’s gentrification is thought by many to be harming and replacing the original culture. However, Charles Roberts, a 40-year-old who’s lived in Pilsen for 10 years, believes that the renovations are not harming the culture.

“It didn’t kill the culture. I think that it added more to it. I think it made the culture more alive,” Roberts said.

Overall, the renovations have made Pilsen a safer place for people like Aurulio Barrios, and have successfully kept the community’s culture.

“I think the renovations are good because there aren’t as many killings anymore,” Barrios said.

Pilsen Slideshow

By Asian Carp


By Asian Carp

HS Digital Newscast

By Kyle and Daniel

WLUW Broadcast

By Edgar and Asian Carp

Erin Schultz

Pilsen’s new persona

When Charles Roberts moved from Boston to Pilsen 10 years ago, he was drawn to the low rent prices. He was an artist and it was one of the only neighborhoods he could afford, so he’s lived there ever since.

However, because Pilsen is becoming more of a tourist destination, which Roberts attributes to the fact it’s covered in murals, the price of rent has increased.

Roberts, 40, is the manager of Knee Deep and will soon have to move because his rent is too expensive.

“[I’m trying to stay here] as long as I can. I’ve tried to stay here because I like it a lot, and I like the community,” Roberts said. “There will always be places that are affordable; it’s just getting harder to find them.”

Though the price of living has gone up, Roberts and Pilsen resident Aurelio Barrios, 69, agree that the crime rate has decreased.

According to Barrios, when he moved to Pilsen in 1959, there were killings every weekend. He now feels safer and like the area has come a long way.

“It used to be a ghetto; now it’s full of townhouses,” Barrios said.

On the contrary, the colorful town of 36,000 has signs plastered and graffiti painted all over that say, “Pilsen is not for sale.”

Some people believe that the changes have hurt the Hispanic culture and want Pilsen to stay the same. They’re fighting for St. Adalbert, a historic church in the town, to stay open.

Barrios also would like for the church to stay open, and even volunteered to help raise money for the church with a concert.

“It’s a shame,” Barrios said. “That thing — they should keep it open. It’s beautiful.”

However, Barrios believes that, at the end of the day, it’s too expensive to keep open for the small number of people who attend the church on a regular basis.

Others believe the fact that Pilsen has gained popularity has strengthened its Hispanic heritage.

“It didn’t kill the culture,” Roberts said. “I’ve actually seen more of it. A lot of it is done for the sake of tourism — When I moved here, there weren’t sugar skulls in the bakeries.”

Sugar skulls, sweet skulls sold to celebrate the day of the dead are traditionally sold in bakeries or open-air markets.

“Now they’re all over the place,” Roberts said.

Fashion in Chinatown


Radio Podcast

Rachel Marr



By Rachel Marr

Visitors to Pilsen see colorful murals showing the culture of its people.

They also see a Dunkin Donuts.

This neighborhood, located on the West Side of Chicago, is facing gentrification.

The neighborhood population of 35,769 is mostly comprised of people of Hispanic descent. Pilsen is filled with Mexican culture, but is now starting to be taken over by franchises.

With the local church, St. Adalbert, being shut down, gentrification is now confronts the people of Pilsen. Signs and graffiti have now emerged over town stating, “Pilsen is not for sale.”

Carwash owner Ty Kolup, 53, likes the fact that money is coming to the community because it is helping bring crime levels down. “When the gangs was here, I’d go to a funeral once or twice a week,” Kolup said, ““Gangs like poverty.”

With the new companies and wealthy people moving in, gangs are moving out.

With the new revenues coming in, rent is going up and people have to leave to seek out cheaper rent.

Charles Roberts, 40, is the manger at Knee Deep, and has been living in Pilsen for the past 10 years. He is being priced out and must move soon.

However, Roberts is not against the gentrification and said, “(the gentrification) didn’t kill the culture… I’ve actually seen more of it.”

Roberts believes it has actually made the culture stronger for the town is bringing in new tourist and the people of Pilsen want to show off their Mexican roots.

The people of Pilsen have different stances on the gentrification. Aureilo Barrios, 69, likes the gentrification and how it has brought money to the town and the crime rate down.

However, he does not like it when the people of wealth try to change Pilsen. When a corporation wanted to put in zone parking Barrios said, “(the people of Pilsen) cut their tires, broke their windows on their car, and then they moved out.”

Barrios said,” I was calling this friend mine said ‘Where do you live at?’ and he said ‘Pilsen Heights’…I said where did you get all these stupid names from… it’s Pilsen and that’s it!”



WLUW Podcast


Liz Bigham High School Digital

Gentrification in Pilsen

By Liz Bigham

Pilsen is known as a gateway for Mexican-Americans full of detailed murals, empowering posters, and family owned markets.

Yet a Dunkin Donuts sits right in the center of the community.

Pilsen is a prime example of the gentrification.

Just a train ride away on the Loop from downtown Chicago is the cultural community of Pilsen.  It’s a traditional neighborhood between Little Village and Bridgeport with a population 36,000.

Since 2010, there has been a 26 percent drop in Hispanic population and a 22 percent increase in white population, according to DNA Info.

One reason for the growth of whites is the neighboring students from University of Illinois at Chicago are lured by the cheap rent prices.

Marvin Marines, 22, is a UIC student who has been living in Pilsen for the past three years due to the close proximity of the campus.  He said he is familiar with the changes occurring in the city.

“In a way the change is good because it is bringing in more people that can contribute to revenue for the neighborhood,” Marines said. “It increases modernization.”

He also sees it as gentrification because the town is losing some of the culture it has, he said.

“It use to be big on art, you can still see that, but it is definitely changing,” Marines said.

The change in Pilsen is causing clothing store manager Charles Roberts, 40, to move out of the town because of the high rent.

“It’s unfortunate that people are getting priced out of the neighborhood,” Roberts said.

He has witnessed the revelations bringing the crime rate down and offering more variety in stores. He doesn’t agree that the change has killed the culture, he said.

“A lot of it has been for the sake of visitors and tourism,” Roberts said.

When he moved to Pilsen ten years ago there weren’t any sugar skulls, which are Day of the Dead decorations. Now they are all over the place, said Roberts.

“I really like this neighborhood and the community, but it’s getting harder and harder to find places that are affordable,” Roberts said.



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