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Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

Pilsen Neighbor Brings Back Luminous Winter Wonderland For Holidays: ‘Who Doesn’t Love Christmas Lights?’

Isabel Hernandez adds decorations each year and invites neighbors and visitors to spot the changes to the display.

Isabel Hernandez poses next to her Pilsen yard on 19th Street between Throop and Loomis streets, which is decked out in Christmas decorations, as seen on Dec. 7, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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PILSEN — Isabel Hernandez’s favorite holiday is Christmas — and anybody walking by her house can tell.

The Pilsen resident decorates her massive 19th Street yard with lights, inflatables, a Christmas tree and more to bring holiday cheer to the neighborhood every year.

Hernandez, 54, has lived in her home between Loomis and Throop streets for more than 30 years and is well-known for her luscious summer gardens and colorful Día de los Muertos ofrendas in the fall. She said she aims to have her Christmas decor up by Thanksgiving.

Hernandez has suffered from chronic pain for years, but she said she pushes through the pain to do what she loves — even when she broke two ribs last winter from falling off a ladder while putting up Christmas lights.

“I enjoy [decorating], no matter how hard it is,” she said. “Who doesn’t love Christmas lights?”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Isabel Hernandez’s Pilsen yard on 19th Street between Throop and Loomis streets is decked out in Christmas decorations, as seen on Dec. 7, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Jen and Mackenna Lopez stop to admire Isabel Hernandez’s Pilsen yard, which is decked out in Christmas decorations, as seen on Dec. 7, 2022.

This year’s decor includes many of Hernandez’s usual knickknacks, but she adds things every year to keep people guessing what she’s going to do next. Her favorite addition is the dangling lights between her covered patio and the home next door.

There’s a Christmas tree, candy canes, an angel statue and large inflatables of a nutcracker, a snow globe, dogs and a penguin. But there’s no 13-foot Santa inflatable this time; it recently broke.

Hernandez said she finds many of her decorations during travels to Mexico. She brings two suitcases to carry home lights, piñatas and other trinkets she finds at markets.

Looking up at her work, Hernandez said she’s proud of what she’s done this year, and it makes her happy when people are surprised to learn she’s built it all by herself.

“I’m already thinking what I’m going to do next year,” she said.

More photos of Hernandez’s home:

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Isabel Hernandez’s Pilsen yard on 19th Street between Throop and Loomis streets is decked out in Christmas decorations, as seen on Dec. 7, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Isabel Hernandez’s Pilsen yard on 19th Street between Throop and Loomis streets is decked out in Christmas decorations, as seen on Dec. 7, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Isabel Hernandez’s Pilsen yard on 19th Street between Throop and Loomis streets is decked out in Christmas decorations, as seen on Dec. 7, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Isabel Hernandez’s Pilsen yard on 19th Street between Throop and Loomis streets is decked out in Christmas decorations, as seen on Dec. 7, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Isabel Hernandez’s Pilsen yard on 19th Street between Throop and Loomis streets is decked out in Christmas decorations, as seen on Dec. 7, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Isabel Hernandez’s Pilsen yard on 19th Street between Throop and Loomis streets is decked out in Christmas decorations, as seen on Dec. 7, 2022.

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