Opinion: “White People Out of Pilsen” a cry against rising taxes, rent

Sticker placed on Bow Truss Coffee’s façade at 1641 W 18th St. Photo by Phil Tadros

[dropcap]A[/dropcap] sticker placed on Bow Truss Coffee’s façade at 1641 W 18th St. highlighted the fact that Pilsen has been in the middle of a cultural shift for some time now. Boasting, “White People Out of Pilsen,” the sticker has become the root of a deeper, personal problem for longtime residents of Pilsen as well as those who are new to the area.

Reactions to the sticker on social media have some people calling it racist while others defending it who want to show support for someone willing to take a stand against gentrification. Regardless of your personal opinion, the reality is that the Pilsen community is changing. As more expensive boutique shops and businesses and so called “trendy residents” have moved into the area, it’s created a feeling for many longtime residents, regardless of their race, that they’re being shut out of their home.

To put this in context, Pilsen’s Bow Truss Coffee has become the unofficial poster child of the gentrification of one of Chicago’s historically Hispanic neighborhoods because it serves “specialty coffee” at prices that would make Dunkin Donuts blush. It’s kind of an abnormality in a predominantly working class neighborhood, where the median income in 2013 was in the low $40,000 according to city-data.com.

So residents are understandably upset, worried and anxious about Pilsen’s future. On its surface “White People Out of Pilsen” may seem focused on the economics of specialty coffee, but it isn’t. It’s a cry against rising property taxes and increased rent. It is not about White versus Latino, it is about providing stability and a community where people feel like they belong. It is not about being hostile to new residents. It’s about not being forced out of a neighborhood you call home.

“We understand that Pilsen does not belong to anybody, but it has always been and we hope it continues to be a working class and immigrant community,” says Byron Sigcho, a Pilsen Alliance Board member. “It is important that we continue to have a dialogue as a community…so we can be part of the change we want to see in our community.”

As part of this dialogue, Pilsen Alliance is hosting a town hall meeting regarding what happened at Bow Truss Coffee on Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. at Rudy Lozano Library, 1805 S Loomis St.

Bow Truss Coffee did not respond to EXTRA’s repeated requests for comment at press time.

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