On Monday, October 2, several international students joined the CMWR on our Walk & Talk to Pilsen, Chicago’s famous Latino-American neighborhood. The English Language Academy treated us all to a walking tour of Pilsen’s many beautiful murals and mosaics, both out on the street and within the walls of Orozco Community Academy. We began at the National Museum of Mexican Art, located right off of the Pink Line. From there, our wonderful tour guide, José, escorted us around the neighborhood. Even as a native Chicagoan, I had never known that Pilsen has only become a Latino neighborhood in the last sixty years, and I never knew what a strong sense of community this area had. It was visible in the murals, which depicted not only great Mexican leaders like Pancho Villa, but also leaders within the community. One mural even commemorated a homeless man who frequented the area. On top of that, while there was plenty of graffiti to be found, we never saw a scrap of it on the murals. José explained that this was because everybody was taught from an early age, in schools and in churches, that these murals are the patrimony of Pilsen, something to be treasured and passed from generation to generation.
We were all especially impressed by the murals and mosaics on and inside of Orozco Community Academy. Two of these murals commemorated the struggles of Native Americans and African Americans, highlighting the ways that they’ve been oppressed but also celebrating the greats, like Ray Charles and Harriet Tubman. José explained that these were made by children as they learned about other cultures in school, and that their intercultural focus was the best way to eliminate prejudice.
After we’d had our fill of murals and history, we took a detour into Los Comales for some tacos, compliments of the UCWbL. There’s no better way to cap off an afternoon of fun and learning than with delicious food and lively conversation, but we weren’t done yet. From there, we walked back to the 18th street Pink Line station, and beheld a final wonder of Pilsen: the entire station was covered in murals. It’s a beautiful entrance and exit to this rich and vibrant community.
Pilsen can be found off of the Damen and 18th Street Pink Line stations. Be sure to not only check out the National Museum of Mexican Art and the local murals, but also their wonderful and authentic restaurants.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Collaborative for Multilingual Writing and Research’s Walk and Talks, or if you’d like to join us on next term’s Walk and Talk (location to be determined), be sure to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.