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The Heart of Chicago: Pilsen
Located in Chicago’s Lower West Side is Pilsen is known as the Heart of Chicago.
The name sounds European, doesn’t it? German, or maybe Czech? If you thought the latter, you’re right. After the Irish and German immigrants of the 1800s, the second wave of immigrants followed, and with them came the Czechs as well as their “Old World-styled” architecture and bohemian culture. Pilsen is so named after one of the Czech Republic’s most modern cities, “Plzen.”
The neighborhood remained predominantly Eastern European, even through the 1960s, until the construction of the University of Illinois at Chicago campus. Today, the neighborhood has a varied assortment of housing, from single-families to condos for sale in Chicago. Population-wise, there is a mix of artists, families, professionals, and a sizeable Mexican population. Mexican restaurants, groceries, bakeries, as well as the National Museum of Mexican Art, makes Pilsen one of Chicago’s foremost neighborhoods of Mexican culture.
Is there good, Mexican food? Absolutely. And certainly not the Tex-Mex stuff people try to pass as real south of the border cuisine. The Houston Press’s Robb Walsh wrote that the Mexican restaurants in Pilsen are "unconsciously authentic.” Considering the neighborhood caters to largely a Mexican population, it darn well better be authentic.
Kaleidoscope of Street Art
Walking the streets of Pilsen might as well be a walk through an outdoor gallery. You think walking to your destination will take a ten-minutes? Think again. Thanks to the Chicago Urban Art Society and with support from the National Museum of Mexican Art, Pilsen hosts murals from many different artists throughout the neighborhood. You can’t help but absorb a bit of the fascinating history, culture, and Mexican-proud community spirit in these streets by the paint on the walls.
Murals have their roots in Mayan and Aztec cultures; it’s a medium that influenced Mexican artists from the 1920s through today. Pilsen’s muralists demonstrate a dexterity and expression that is evident of a complicated history. From Mario Castillo’s Peace or Metafisico painted 1968, the first Mexican anti-Vietnam war mural in Pilsen – to Marcos Raya’s Fallen Dictator in 1980 – the murals in themselves not only depict a culture and history that continually changes and evolves, but the murals themselves change. For example, Raya’s anti-imperialist mural has been revamped three times, the most recent being done within the past couple of years, depicting Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton represented as snakes battling it out!
Pilsen Housing Stock + Condos for Sale in Chicago
Housing options abound in Pilsen, attracting many new “bohemians” to the neighborhood. Hipsters drawn to the low rents and colorful neighborhood are moving from Wicker Park, Bucktown, and other too-cool to be cool corners of Chicago to live amongst the taquerias and cantinas.
There are a wide-range of housing options, from single-family homes to rehabs to new constructions. If you’re buying a condo, Pilsen has quite a few new condo units to reel you in – some of the more affordable condos for sale in Chicago, in fact. As well, the Chantico Loft development and Union Row Townhomes are developments attracting newcomers to the neighborhood.