Many visitors to Chicago might not get a chance to venture beyond the Loop, so why not hop on the Pink Line and take a trip to Pilsen? It started life as an immigrant incubator for people from Eastern Europe and today it is made vibrant and wonderful by Mexicans and other Latinos who’ve come to Chicago for a range of opportunities. So hop on the Pink Line and follow me to 18th Street for a short visit to a couple of the area’s most unique destinations.
Stop at the Platform, See the Art
As you hop off the train at 18th Street, make sure and take a close look at the murals that tell the stories of the neighborhood and its diverse history and culture. Created by Francisco Mendoza and a group of students, these panels celebrate the varieties of the Latino experience throughout the centuries. It’s a civic treasure and it’s well worth slowing down to take in and consider.
From the Past to the Present: The National Museum of Mexican Art
With 3,000 years of creativity to celebrate, the National Museum of Mexican Art is a true wonder. Located just a short walk from the 18th Street El station, the museum is completely free and visitors are welcome to take one of their guided tours or to just wander around at their leisure. The curious traveler can check out information on their current exhibitions and will find celebrations of the immigrant experience, acculturation, and popular culture. The museum is also distinguished by its special programs featuring film screenings, conversations, lectures and much more. Make sure and take a look at their event calendar for more details.
Fresh Tortillas and More
The hustle and bustle of Nuevo Leon is well-known throughout Chicago and it’s a nice way for newbies to get their feet wet in the area. You should know that it’s cash only, so come prepared. The orchata is highly recommended and the tamales (all varieties) are prepared fresh and they are but one of their signature items. Personally, my favorite item is the beef barbacoa with refried beans, salad and rice. Also, it’s BYOB so if you choose to bring in your own spirits, it’s all good.
This trio of spots will get you started, so make sure and do your own wandering after taking a look around. Pilsen is a great Chicago neighborhood and one that will reveal more and more with each visit. Enjoy and happy wandering!
Photos: 18th Street CTA station courtesy of DCASE; CTA murals by senor_codo via flickr; Nuevo Leon