The Changing Color Palette of Pilsen

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 Chicago is often described as a city of neighborhoods.  The only problem is, people here can’t agree on too much else in regard to this subject; arguments abound over the actual number (probably over 200), their boundaries, their history, and even the proper name for the neighborhood.   What we all can agree on is that neighborhoods are constantly in flux.  One such community that is gradually changing its face is Pilsen, just southwest of the Loop.  This working-class area was inhabited by Polish and German immigrants in the mid-18th century, but soon Czechs moved in and named the area Pilsen after Plzeň, a large city in Czech Republic (think Pilsner beer).  In the mid-20th century, Latinos (mostly of Mexican origin) began populating Pilsen, and today they constitute a large majority of the local population.  Though this demographic has also been shifting: in recent years Pilsen has been discovered for its low rents, proximity to downtown, and its colorful life, and other ethnic groups have descended.  Numerous art galleries have sprouted and several popular non-Hispanic restaurants can be found.  One would not describe Pilsen as succumbing to gentrification, rather a slow evolution to a more diverse population.  What has not changed is the dynamic, colorful and energetic life one finds in this historic district.  The colorful nature of this neighborhood is reflected in its numerous murals, vibrantly painted buildings, authentic restaurants, diverse population, and even the “L” that runs through Pilsen is called the Pink Line.  Come by for a visit, be sure to bring your camera and your appetite.      Chicago Photos by Alan Klehr

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