Today, some friends and I went on an excursion to Pilsen. It was very far away from campus. We met on campus, then we took the Green line to the McCormick Place, then we took a bus to Carpenter St. When we got off the bus, we went under an overhang to avoid a bulldozer on the street next to where the bus dropped us off. The construction worker operating the bulldozer was actually doing something illegal, by keeping the scooper in the air on a public street. Something could fall out, y’know?
Anyway, we hang a left after the bulldozer, and we begin to discuss how industrially zoned areas protect streetlights with concrete pylons known as bollards. I made a reference to that one Starcraft meme. Y’know, the “You must construct additional pylons” meme. My friends didn’t get the reference because they don’t play Starcraft. I don’t play it either, but memes quickly spread far and wide on the internet.
After making the reference, we encountered a building that was conspicuously more modern-looking than the brick buildings around it. It seems that not even places as ethnically and culturally diverse as Pilsen are immune to gentrification. Or perhaps it’s because of it’s diversity, that Pilsen is experiencing gentrification.
After the example of gentrification, we came across multiple murals painted on the sides of buildings. Murals are a big part of Latino culture, and the murals in Pilsen were made by famous Latino artists, such as Delilah Salgado.
After admiring the murals, we came across a building of the 18th Street Development Corporation, which has devoted itself to the economic growth of Pilsen through the support of small businesses and through the planning of infrastructure. The Corporation has been supporting Pilsen since 1976.
Walking down the street from the Corporation building, we saw a building for Bobi Joa Korean Kitchen across the street. I haven’t been able to find out what kind of food is served there, exactly, But as the name suggests, it most likely serves traditional Korean food.
As an example of how different Pilsen is from other neighborhoods, we found a restaurant that used to be an auto shop. The restaurant has been declared permanently closed, But i’m not sure for how long. I couldn’t find when it closed.
Some time after visiting the repurposesd auto shop, we came across Josefina’s Bakery on West 18th Street. We didn’t have time to go in, but from what I’ve heard of it, it seems pretty good.
After visiting Josefina’s, we came across the Saint Procopius Catholic Church, with a memorial to Saint Mary out in front. The Church was founded after Czech Catholics immigrated to America in 1863, when it began as the St. Wenceslaus Parish. After the Chicago Fire of 1871, Czechs from other Neighborhoods moved to Pilsen, and Fr. William Coka organized funds to help build a new school and Parish, which was named after St. Procopius.
Some time after visiting the church, we came across Belli’s Juice Bar. Despite being called a “bar”, it doesn’t serve any alcoholic drinks. Just cold press juices, smoothies and avocado toasts. It also doesn’t look much like a bar, but I suppose there isn’t a standard appearance for a bar.
While we were walking through Pilsen, we found these symbols set into street corners. They appear to be Aztec or Mayan in design, which is probably due to the Mexican culture in Pilsen. I wanted to look more into it , but google’s image search was unreliable, and I couldn’t find anything through other means.
Along the way, we saw a sign for what appears to be a Bilingual law firm. I suppose its to be expected, considering how diverse Pilsen is. Actually, being multilingual is probably necessary to run a business in a place like Pilsen.
Some time after the Bilingual Law Firm, we came across a Mexican bakery, titled Panaderia Del Refugio. The title is Spanish for “Shelter Bakery”. We actually went inside and bought some confectioneries. it was just bread and some frosting, but it was still good. I was surprised to see that a Cantonese Restaurant titled “Happy Panda” was literally right next door to the bakery.
After visiting the bakery, we visited the Lozano branch of the Chicago Public Library. The library is actually very large, taking up about a whole block by itself. As a true testament to the diversity of Pilsen, there’s a sign on the door that reads “All are welcome here.” in seven languages. Seven! Across the street from the library is a statue. I tried finding out what the significance of the statue is, but search results haven’t been forthcoming.
After some walking, we found a park with statues devoted to famous people in Mexican history, such as Mexican Priests and Revolutionaries Jose Marie Morelos y Pavon and Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. Close to the park is a mural devoted to the students of the Benito Juarez Community Academy. The Benito Juarez Community Academy is a prevalent high school in the Pilsen area.
Famous Mexican Figures Including Jose and Miguel and the mural devoted to Benito Juarez Academy
After the park with the statues, were starting to run out of time so we started to make our way back. While we were walking, we saw some more murals. A couple were religious in content, while the other one was sports related.
Religious Murals and a Sports Mural
After we saw everything we had time for, we went to the pink line station, got on board, transferred to the green line, and got back to the campus. I was very glad I went to Pilsen, all things considered. It was pleasantly surprising to see a Mexican Bakery next door to a Cantonese restaurant. I was also surprised by the fact that so many of the places we visited were all on the same street. I mean, I’ve heard of shopping districts, but it was still unexpected.
Purpose & Mission. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://esdcpilsen.org/mission-values/
History. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://esdcpilsen.org/past-and-current-success-stories/
Parish History : St Procopius/Providence of God. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://stprocopiuschurch.org/about-us/parish-history/
Josefina’s Bakery. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://foursquare.com/v/josefinas-bakery/4df13d41d4c01ff6b2e26967
Belli’s Juicebar. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://places.singleplatform.com/bellis-juicebar/menu
The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d.). José María Morelos | Mexican priest and revolutionary. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jose-Maria-Morelos
The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d.). Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla | Facts, Accomplishments, & Biography. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Miguel-Hidalgo-y-Costilla
Juarez HS. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://schoolinfo.cps.edu/schoolprofile/schooldetails.aspx?SchoolId=609764