NEW BLOG POST!!
It’s a damn shame! I’ve been to Australia, France, China, Africa, Spain and a host of other foreign countries. I pride myself on being a global citizen, who partakes in a variety of cultural offerings. I’m open to diverse cultures and sampling unique foods. I have even tried learning French at age 50+.
So with all this cultural exposure, how in the world could I have never been to The Pilsen community on the lower west side of Chicago?
I have been trying to get to The National Mexican Museum of Art since 2002; every year I vow that I am going to visit there, but it keeps greeting pushed off. Back in 2015, I clearly stated in a blog post that I would no longer put it off and visit this treasure in 2016. Have I done it, yet? Not yet, BUT…
Recently I enrolled in a photography class with a phenomenal organization — Blue 1647!! Blue is a technology innovation center “where diverse people making a positive impact in the world gather to create, collaborate, learn and build (from Mission Statement).” With a mission like this, it’s no wonder Blue 1647 would find themselves in the heart of Pilsen — a community ripe for technological innovation, business development and culture.
When I found myself having to go there for my class, I was a bit excited because I’d never spent anytime in Pilsen. Conversely, I was a bit uneasy about going there for the same reason — I’d never been there. If I am honest with myself, I would have to acknowledge that no matter how adventurous I have been throughout my life, doing something for the first time was still daunting, even for me!
I love serendipity! Here I am taking a class in a neighborhood that I have heard so much about but hadn’t spent any time there. Once I arrived for my class and had to go out to shoot photos, I immediately felt the electricity and specialness of Pilsen. How could I have overlooked it, underestimated the importance of spending time there, and as much as I love Mexican food, what was my problem? I wondered.
Being surrounded by a number of beautiful murals depicting Mexican culture, being in the midst of coffee houses like Cafe Jumping Bean, taquerias and the lure of the aromas of Churros and other edibles, I became overjoyed and blessed to be present here on a Saturday — a day where you can truly capture (with a camera) the the life of a community. I could feel Pilsen’s spirit.
Residents rode by on bikes and even stopped to take pics with the women in my class. Cars whizzing by slowed down to a crawl to checkout why seven women were clicking away with their 35mm cameras.
Like many Chicago neighborhoods, Pilsen has gone through its share of gentrification; many families have moved out because of what’s been called an affordability factor. However, Pilsen hasn’t seemed to have lost its true essence.
It has a great balance of older adults who maintain the stories, music and history of its residents. There is other end of the spectrum where there are young people with high energy, new ideas and dreams. There are small business owners like shoe cobblers, hardware stores, dress shops and long established restaurants.
Street food, Horchata and Huaraches can be found everywhere!
There is a lightness in the air — the kind that says, “we are family; welcome to it!”
I look forward to hanging out more and more (with my camera, of course) in Pilsen! I plan to get to know her well.