Located on the lower west side of the city, Pilsen has a long history of being a home to many different immigrant communities in Chicago. 150 years ago, it was home to many Eastern European groups, but in the past five decades or so, the neighborhood has become predominantly Latino. The neighborhood is widely known throughout Chicago as a vibrant community that boasts and celebrates Mexican heritage through colorful murals, museums, and local restaurants and businesses.
Currently, Pilsen is grappling fears of gentrification, as hordes of middle class, white families are moving into the neighborhood, bringing higher rent prices with them. In the past decade, the Latino population in Pilsen has decreased by over 10,000 people, but people are not leaving without a fight.
For our research, we studied the botanicas that serve locals in order to understand how alternative forms of medicine influence the community’s meaning of wellness. We also conducted participant observation at El Paseo community garden to learn about how gardening is impacting wellness and if the diversity of the gardeners has impacted the relationships between the different, and somewhat clashing, communities that currently reside in Pilsen. In the garden, gentrification is a common theme, and through our participant observation, we’ve been able to see a few of the many ways the Pilsen community is working together to protect their neighborhood.