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Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

Gentrification Takes Center Stage On Pilsen Walking Tour

Attendees will visit Canton Regio, 5 Rabanitos and sample paletas on the three-hour food tour.

Reach for Peace, 2011, Yollocalli Arts Reach, 1544 W 18th St.
[Mauricio Peña/Block Club Chicago]

PILSEN — A Chicago-based tour group’s July walking tour will focus on the forces of gentrification in changing Pilsen. 

Through the lens of the Mexican immigrant community, Chicago Detours’ “Changes and Spaces in Pilsen Food Tour” focuses on the last 50 years of the Lower West Side neighborhood. Tour guests will learn the history behind gentrification in the neighborhood, visit community murals and taste authentic Mexican dishes in the majority Hispanic neighborhood.

The three-hour tour is slated from 2-5 p.m. Saturday, July 7 and will span 1.3 miles of the neighborhood, according to Amanda Scotese, founder and executive director of Chicago Detours. On the tour, guests will learn about the neighborhood and sample  authentic dishes from Pilsen’s Canton Regio and 5 Rabanitos and be treated to homemade paletas.

Tour tickets are on sale online for $52.

Some of the tour stories derive from Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski’s novel, “Painted Cities,” which explores life in the Pilsen during the 1970s.

The tour will start at Pilsen Community Books, 1102 W. 18th St., and end at 5 Rabanitos, 1758 W. 18th St. Food on the tour includes a meal of grilled skirt steak arrachera, a taste of vegetarian sope, chicken mole and plantains with ancho chile and pecans and a paleta. 

This is not the first time Chicago Detours tours have focused on the issue of gentrification in changing neighborhoods. 

Earlier this year, the tour group’s gentrification bus tour of Logan Square and Avondale drew sharp criticism from neighbors, with some saying that the $58 price tag of that tour excluded the residents who were being displaced.

At the time, Scotese said she received violent messages after announcing the tour, and in response, she pulled the tour off of the public platform and made the Logan and Avondale bus tour a  private tour instead.

Scotese said Monday that she hasn’t received similar criticism about the Pilsen gentrification tour.

Although Chicago Detours previously planned to donate tips and a portion of the ticket sales to The Resurrection Project in Pilsen to be used for the organization’s affordable housing for students, a Resurrection Project spokesperson said Wednesday that they would not accept donations from Chicago Detours.

“No donation has been received. No donation will be accepted. The Resurrection Project will have no involvement in this event,” the Pilsen nonprofit said in a statement.

Scotese said Chicago Detours still plans to offer donations for the walking tour.

While Pilsen is still majority Hispanic, more than 10,000 Hispanics have left the neighborhood since 2000, a 26 percent drop, according to a 2016 study by University of Illinois at Chicago professor John Betancur and grad student Youngjun Kim. 

In that same time, the number of whites in the neighborhood grew by 22 percent, from 3,587 in 2000 to an estimated 4,385 in 2013.