I happened by this mural in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood about a week ago. I spotted it again a few days later, before a show at Thalia Hall, in the same South Side burg. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.
I don’t pretend to know the city’s landscape all that well, but I do know that Pilsen, not long ago, had been a dodgy place to find yourself. Gripped by the usual street terrors of drugs, guns and gangs, it was considered by most—when it was considered at all—an area to be avoided.
Now it’s something different: safer, by any objective standard; gritty, but in that comfortable, gentrified way; popular among the beardo-and-hipster monied class.
In other words: whiter.
We often talk about this stuff—or, rather, around it. Not necessarily with malice or prejudice, but in a sort of code. Fact is, a quarter of Pilsen’s Hispanic population is gone from the neighborhood since 2000. Property values are up, yes, but so too are taxes and rent. Some families—many that have lived in the area for generations—can’t afford to stay there anymore.
I’m not smart enough to know what it all means, how to fix it—or even if “it” actually needs fixing. Stuff happens. Things change. In the end, we’ve all gotta deal.
I just see that mural, and I think it’s beautiful. And I see a place like Pilsen changing, and I think it’s nice. And also kind of a shame.