The Pilsen area has undergone many acts of gentrification including higher rent on business fronts and property taxes on homes, the opening of Americanized businesses and the closing of monumental architecture. Such architecture includes the St. Adalbert Catholic Church on 17th street, resulting in a decrease of hispanic residents. Many had to move out of the original predominant Hispanic neighborhood because they could not keep up with the changes. According to research done by a University of Illinois at Chicago professor and grad student, over 10,000 Hispanic residents have left Pilsen since the year 2000, while there has been a 22 percent growth in the white population. A recent act of gentrification in the cultural neighborhood located in Chicago’s lower west side was the painting over Caza Aztlan. Casa Aztlan wasn’t just any ordinary building, it was a community center that was created in the image of historians and leaders of the Chicano movement and it honored their contribution to the Hispanic community. The repainting of the Casa Aztlan wall to a plain dark gray wall is just one example of what the Pilsen community is facing in terms of gentrification. Now, the area formally known as being rich in arts, culture and historic architecture is faced with a question: What is the community’s new identity and what does the future hold for the people in the colorful historic area?
In the first part of the conversation, Real Chi Youth Reporters Annel Lopez and Anaja Smith sat down with Paul Guizar, the owner of Pilsen Vintage and Thrift to discuss the relationship between the community and the gentrification it is currently experiencing from a resident and business owner’s perspective. In the second part of this conversation, they sat down with Moy Moreno of the Pilsen Alliance in order to see the perspective of an activist who works directly in the community.
Paul and Moy discuss how there are both positives and negatives to gentrification, and how the outlook one may have on the issue differs from generation to generation. Paul discusses what he believes to be the best route to take when being a business owner in an area that is being gentrified and how he as a business owner aids Pilsen in unification. On the other hand, Moy discusses what it’s like to be a community member of a seemingly divided Pilsen area, including different business owners and their willingness to contribute to making Pilsen a unified community.