culture

24 Pilsen Murals That Make Chicago A Walking Latinx Museum

@genny_fromtheblock / Instagram

We all know why the City of Chicago has made itself home to one of the largest Latino populations in the U.S. Well, now meet the Pilsen neighborhood, also known as Little Mexico.

In the late ’60s, artists like Mario Castillo, Ray Patlan and Marcos Raya started to paint the neighborhood with anti-Vietnam War murals and to inspire Mexican-American residents to be proud of their heritage.

In some ways, nothing has changed and it’s as obvious as painting on the walls.

1. Women are always watching.

CREDIT: @snsoroka / Instagram

The murals you find in Pilsen have historically been a blend of art and activism. Mural art goes back to Aztec and Mayan cultures, to the 1920s Mexican government-funded PSA projects. Today in Pilsen, many murals are funded by the National Museum for Mexican Art.

2. It’s pretty incredible, verdad?

CREDIT: @sharongaiettophotography / Instagram

Sixteenth Street is a hot spot for murals. You can find them stretching for miles and spanning decades. This is Saicker’s debut mural and we’re waiting impatiently for the next.

3. And sometimes creepy…

CREDIT: @kaleidostob / Instagram

Street artist ROA painted this two part mural of an oppossum. Don’t turn the page if you want to see the truth about this lil guy.

4. He’s dead. 🙁

CREDIT: @myriamt18 / Twitter

When you view this from a certain angle, the possum is all in one piece. Some people really hate this one, claiming it’s actually a rat. Comment with your opinion!

5. The Mexicano influence is real.

CREDIT: @snsoroka / Instagram

Seriously, Pilsen is like a concrete canvas for artists aiming to keep the vibrance of Mexican culture alive, and for good reason. Keep on…

6. Gentrification is also real.

CREDIT: @murphdawg49 / Instagram

The Pilsen neighborhood has lost over 10k Mexicans in the last year alone. While the Latino population has been growing in Chicago, it’s becoming more sprawling because of new storefronts moving in and rent going up.

7. It’s important to support local artists…

CREDIT: @monstrochika / Instagram

…who support local women. Many of the faces painted here are just women from the community, who happen to be activists, dancers, singers and whose faces belong in Pilsen.

8. Mother Mary is all over the city.

CREDIT: @monstrochika / Instagram

And Angel Gabriel, and el espiritú santo. The Catholic influence is inescapable, and it’s definitely a lot prettier here than it was in most of our childhoods!

9. “Weaving Cultures”

CREDIT: @handmeupresale / Instagram

Chicago artists Sam Kirk and Sandra Antongiorgi had all the intention of bringing visibility to underrepresented women in the neighborhood, including a transgender Latina.

Sam Kirk told Windy City Media Group, “”Members of the LGBT community live throughout the city, but often don’t feel comfortable being themselves in their communities. Public art has the ability to reach many people and we hope this mural will increase visibility for the women represented in our work.” We’re with you.

10. Stinkfish, 1005 W. 16th Street, 2013.

CREDIT: @latinactivista / Instagram

Stinkfish is a Colombian street artist who recreates photos into psychadelic themes. He was born in Mexico, but grew up in Colombia, and we only know his pen name. Rumor has it that he just takes photos of travelers and randomly chooses them. Travel wisely.

11. An incomplete Mary

CREDIT: @kevinoconnor_kevinoconnor / Instagram

These don’t happen overnight! If you visit Pilsen, you’re likely to run into a street artist working on their murals, slowly but surely. I’m waiting for the time-lapse video.

12. The art is up for your interpretation.

CREDIT: @kerlitos_way / Instagram

Caption: “Freedom of Speech is Dead…………..or Revived!”

Or is it that, we are the creations of another entity and mute ourselves to our own oppression? I mean, not *us* specifically. #FuckThePatriarchy

13. “Galeria del Barrio” by Aurelio Diaz, restored by Sam Kirk.

CREDIT: @xuxabelle / Instagram

This was the second ever mural painted by Mario Castillo, the very first muralist in Pilsen. Drawing inspo from William Walker’s 1967 “Wall of Respect,” he decided to show the fullest spectrum of diversity this wall allowed.

14. Sam Kirk’s work is everywhere.

CREDIT: @gisellafaggi / Instagram

Kirk was born and raised in the south side of Chicago, and aims to use her work to “celebrate people and to inspire pride and recognition for underrepresented communities.” She tries to keep the politics that generations before us have been fighting for alive.

15. Hebru Brantley, 1478 W. 16th Street, 2013.

CREDIT: @kaleidostob / Instagram

Hebru Brantley is world famous for his public works in London, Switzerland, San Francisco, Atlanta, Miami, Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York. But he’s born and raised in Chicago, and some of his first works are still here.

16. Then there’s the tiled mosaic art.

CREDIT: @handmeupresale / Instagram

No air vent will go untouched by beauty and meaning in Pilsen. Seriously, you’ll find this kind of art on every door for a block straight.

17. What’d I say? Every. Door.

CREDIT: @glassesclasses / Instagram

This is what community is all about–educating those that come after you to navigate this world, and doing everything you can to protect them.

Read: “Shoot hoops, not guns.”

18. Brett Flannigan & Cannon Hill, 901 W. 16th Street, 2013.

CREDIT: @handmeupresale / Instagram

This due decided to combine abstract black and white depictions of the animal world in unison with bright semblances of the human world, seeming to wrap around and overcome the animal. Walk the full block to see their full work.

19. You might run into Hugo Chávez.

CREDIT: @turismoemchicago / Instagram

Venezuelan President Chávez was best known for launching a movement for better working conditions for low wage workers, especially those put at a disadvantage by the way the U.S. treats undocumented workers.

20. Murals commemorate the indigenous peoples who started them in the first place.

CREDIT: @chicagoldubs / Instagram

This mural depicts the worst horror in history: the sun setting on an entire civilization of native peoples after colonizers raped and destroyed them.

21. And the women who keep society going.

CREDIT: @chicagoismyboyfriend / Instagram

It’s really remarkable to see a community that so embraces Mexican culture, especially during a time when our country’s administration is so disdainful. #VivaLaMexicana

22. Plus, the men who started the Mexican Revolution.

CREDIT: @billycraven / Instagram

Zapata and Pancho Villa were peasants who joined Madero’s rebellion to help overthrow 30 year dictator Porfirio Díaz and bring us the Mexico we know today.

23. Pilsen honors the activists who paved the way for Latinos.

CREDIT: @arquitectos_chicago / Instagram

You can’t go too far without seeing an image of Cesar Chavez, Frida Kahlo or Che Guevara, and that’s the way we like it. Whatever’s behind that door better be incredible because my expectation is way high right now.

24. RAE, 1579 W. 16th Street, 2012.

CREDIT: @a_touch_of_b / Instagram

The message of the Pilsen community is to stay awake to war, to gentrification, and to our roots. It’s no secret that Pilsen is alive to the vibrance of Mexican art.

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