Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to hear is true. Some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent. This is the third part of a four part story. Read PART I here. Read PART II here. Read PART III here. Read PART IV here.
For decades Pilsen has been supportive of artists. Most of the amazing murals that decorate the area were painted by people who live in the neighborhood. Like the working class Bohemian and Mexican families, artists came to the neighborhood because of the affordable homes and the supportive community.
However it wasn’t until the beginning of the 21st century that a huge influx of middle class twenty-somethings began moving into the area. Most of them were students going to college in the city and had recently discovered Pilsen’s affordability and proximity to the loop. As the years went by more and more millennial scenesters moved into Pilsen and unwittingly began gentrifying the area. As editor of Adentro de Pilsen I was witness to the latest cycle of urban renewal that had already claimed Lincoln Park in the 1970’s and Wick Park in the 1980’s.
At present Pilsen has some cool restaurants, art galleries and bars that aren’t explicitly Mexican. The neighborhood has even begun to subdivide itself. The new condos, cafes and galleries are all in “East Pilsen,” which is south of 16th Street and between South Halsted Street and South Canal Street and north of the South Branch of the Chicago River. This is the most gentrified area of Pilsen and is the result of the UIC campus yet again spilling over into the community.
But this isn’t enough redevelopment for longtime 25th Ward Alderman Danny Solis. He wants to make Pilsen a destination hotspot of nightlife in the city. To do this he’s been a proponent of adding to the gallery art scene in the area while also imitating Wicker Park and Logan Square’s trendy bar and music venue atmosphere.
The thing is, Pilsen isn’t really hurting from a lack of trendy nightlife activities and venues. In reality, Pilsen is ridiculously interesting and full of adventure at night. The only difference is that the night life scene is off the grid, based mostly around underground parties and venues that are, much to the chagrin of Solis, un-taxable and unregulated.
That’s how I wound up at a moped rally featuring a crust punk fight club in the basement of 1350 West 19th Street. Ω
END OF PART III