it’s Tuesday morning and the weather man was wrong. Although it isn’t sunny outside, we are told that it is fairly warm! Two warm days in a row? In Chicago? We obviously must have brought the good weather from Spokane!
At 9:30am, we climb the CTA’s gray van with Mary as our driver and head to the Pilsen community, also known as the Mexican-American neighborhood, where we are planned to meet local artist Jose Guerrero at his studio. As we reach Pilsen, I began to notice the local Spanish signs, schools, stores, and restaurants. I immediately feel a sense of comfort and am overwhelmed with joy and happiness. No, I’m not from Chicago, but yes, I am Mexican-American so being surrounded by others who can identify with my culture made me feel at ease while driving through the community. Once we reach Jose’s studio building, he explains to us that the building is very old, first being a theater, then a labor union hangout, and now it is not only an art studio but a Quincenera rental location as well. He then leads us to the art studio “Obrero Printing Press” where he astonishes all of us with the breath-taking projects from many different artists. “Art is not done for the sake of art, it is done to create change and make an impact,” states Jose. All of the print projects he showed us had their individual meanings and display of oppression from either the government or society. After the beautiful art work, we headed outside for our murals tour. While walking to our first mural, I learn that Jose has been in Chicago since 1964 and has met many different artist and people who have made an impact in Pilsen. He also mentions how the murals are very significant to the community due to their historical meanings and the impact they make on people who take the time to understand each one individually. One of Jose’s last statements to me was, “These murals are very important because they teach the younger generation of Mexican-Americans to not forget their culture and most importantly, their language.”
After the long walk around the neighborhood, we reach our destination for lunch-The Nuevo Leon. As we walk inside we soon realize that this restaurant is the hot spot! Since there wasn’t enough open tables we had to split the group into half. I got to share my delicious lunch time with Yusra, Justin, and Michaela. As we are deciding on what to order, the waitress brings us caldo de albondigas (meatballs soup), which immediately sent me back to the years when my mom would always make that on winter days. As we eat our authentic Mexican food we began to share about our individual cultures and what we enjoyed about our holidays. After a great lunch, we head to The National Museum of Mexican Art and catch a quick glimpse of the beautiful art work that portrayed many different meanings of what the Mexican culture means to different artists. On our way out we stopped by the gift shop were some of us just enjoyed viewing the unique things they had while others decided to buy unique small gifts to remember this Museum.
Next spot in our agenda is Growing Home Wood that is located in Englewood, one of the small, poor communities in Chicago. Growing Home Wood, grows vegetables and fruits for their community and their mission is to demonstrate the use of agriculture as a way to help those in need of job training, employment, and develop the community. What did I learn from this place? I learned that giving back to your others is essential for creating a strong community and those working in Growing Home Wood definitely showed this. This place is filled with amazing leaders who have the drive to make their home a better place.
At around 3pm we reached Boulevard and had a four-hour break, so we immediately decided to head to downtown on our own and explore the wonderful city life. While Janay and Michaela figured out the buses, trains, and streets situation, we were all getting ready for this exciting adventure. We figured out that we had to take the Bus 15 to the Red line train and then get off at Chicago where we’d reach our destination. As we are riding the bus, the stop we believe is ours reaches closer to us and we get off the bus. To our dismay we had gotten off way too early and had no other option but to walk the rest of the way to the subway station. Twenty minutes later, we reach it and we soon get on the Red line and head towards downtown. As we reach downtown, with our GPS in hand, we explore the city and find John Hancock’s Observatory Center. Since we didn’t want to spend money on the actual center we decide to go up to the 95th floor and watch the view from there. Unfortunately, only 21 year olds and older could be at that spot so again, to our dismay we go outside to find something else to do. When it reaches dinner time we decide to stop at Downtown’s dogs and have a taste of the famous Chicago hot dogs were Aleksey took the challenge of eating a double downtown dog which had double the meat in one bun. After his victory defeating this challenge we decide to head back to the Boulevard. On our way back home, in the bus we meet a girl named Coco who was very outspoken and friendly. She shares briefly with us a few jokes, about being from Jamaica, and her love for cereal.
At 7:15pm we headed out to the KLEO Community Family Life Center were we attended a L.Y.R.I.C youth open mic show. Once we reached the inside of the building we are welcomed by dancing music and it immediately feels like a secure safe place to be able to be yourself. The show soon begins and we all are attentive to the spoken words shared by many local youth. We hear about the struggles many of them faced and their visions of life. Every single performance was a true inspiration but after about 3 hours of amazing talent the show soon comes to an end. But, we are surprised by brief dance party. After a few songs it is time to head back to the Boulevard, then we soon find out that it is snowing outside and our good luck with the weather had washed away.