When I visited La Catrina Café last Saturday night, my view of the commotion inside was at first restricted by the lines of condensation on a large window. I stepped closer to inspect the crowd: books held to their chests, they shuffled eagerly around a busy table. As they came and went, I caught a glimpse of one small figure, bent over slightly, signing a copy of his book. It was Japanese photographer Akito Tsuda. He looked up at and I noticed his smile, one that encompassed the entirety of his face. I entered the venue, and Latin music wrapped around me, ushering me inside to a gracious assembly of Pilsen locals.
An empty parcel of land in eastern Pilsen, sitting between Metra and freight tracks and 18th Street, draws little attention to itself—but for some residents, the site has become a battleground for the future of the neighborhood. The luxury developer that owns the land, Property Markets Group (PMG), recently announced big plans for a 465-unit apartment complex on the site called “ParkWorks.”
Eighteenth Street Development Corporation’s (ESDC) eighth annual Mole de Mayo Festival was held from Friday, May 26 to Sunday, May 28, in Pilsen. With Lucha Libre matches, live music, authentic Mexican cuisine, and clothing and jewelry vendors, the weekend-long festival offered a glimpse into Mexican culture above and beyond “Mucho Mole!” for residents all throughout Chicago.
On the evening of February 28, about thirty congregants of St. Adalbert Church huddled under a tunnel of scaffolding outside the main doors of the church, seeking refuge from a downpour of rain. Holding posters, candles, and various Catholic paraphernalia, the churchgoers collectively chanted “La iglesia no se vende.” (The church is not for sale). At around 6:30pm, a few of the elderly parishioners, standing on the steps at the entrance of the church, began a prayer vigil.
On January 10, as then-president Barack Obama prepared to deliver his farewell address at McCormick Place, Rosa Esquivel was setting up chairs and tables at a Chicago Public Library named after another prominent community organizer, Rudy Lozano. Esquivel, a Guatemalan immigrant who has lived in the area since 2003, volunteers as a community board member for Pilsen Alliance, a grassroots social justice organization headquartered two blocks west of the Rudy Lozano library. The day’s community meeting marked the latest chapter in the organization’s nearly two-decade history of working to protect its neighborhood.
This past fall, perceptive Chicago art lovers may have noticed the absence of one long-standing tradition: after forty-five years, the Pilsen East Artists’ Open House wasn’t happening.
This month, TRQPiTECA, created by Natalie Murillo (aka La Spacer) and Jacquelyn Guerrero (aka DJ Cqqchifruit), celebrates its two-year anniversary. The monthly event, most often held at Junior’s Sports Bar in Pilsen, is part tropical dance DJ night, part performance art, and part electric beach aesthetics (think sequins, disco balls, and blow-up palm trees). The result is a sensory paradise that revolves around the vast array of artists and performers in Chicago’s queer scene. The Weekly spoke with co-hosts Natalie and Jackie about the inception of TRQPiTECA, the importance of Chicago’s house music scene, and dancing as a form of resistance and healing.
Ruben L. Garza, Jr. is the vocalist for Through N Through, a four-person band of Little Village natives who write music about their experiences growing up young and Latinx on the South Side. They are not the first to do so: punk bands like Los Crudos have become synonymous with the local music scene in Little Village and Pilsen by wearing their heritage on their sleeves. But Through N Through is different. Although Garza says he prefers the label “hardcore” for Through N Through’s music, the thick guitar tones, crushing palm-muted riffs, and cutting kick drum all show the band’s heavy metal roots bursting through to the surface, with Garza’s hardcore punk vocals adding a defiant and satisfying finish.