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U.S.A.: Pilsen Murals

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Pilsen Murals | U.S.A. | Americas

[Visited: July 2016]

It is a sunny day when I rent a bike near the waterfront of Chicago, and I decide not to take the fastest route to my destination of the day, but ride along the coast on the bike track, which turns out to be a good decision. Cycling from the waterfront to the west on 18th Street is great, too: the views of the Chicago skyline are great, especially from the bridges I cross. I know I am getting near my goal when I see the first murals on walls on the streets. I lock my bike near the metro station at Paulina Street, and start walking around. St Vitus church has a long row of murals around its base, depicting religious scenes, but also with Mexican motifs. Around the corner, there is a wall with brightly coloured Mexican animals seemingly chasing each other.

Picture of Pilsen Murals (U.S.A.): Mural depicting a train near the metro station 18th St and Paulina

A little further on, around the Cooper Dual Language Academy, I find more Mexican murals, with historic Mexican scenes like Aztec temples, at the parking lot. Walking past the St Vitus church again, I come across more murals behind a kids playground, with a train depicted on the work of art. I am now happy with my bike (I considered taking the metro here): I can take my bike and explore the neighbourhood more easily, in search of more street art. I ride down small streets to reach Ashland Avenue, where I find some huge murals on buildings, houses, and over parking lots. Some cover much of a block of houses. Some depict daily scenes, others have a religious character. I get the strange sensation that I am the only visitor in a giant open air museum, where all other people are using the streets to get somewhere else. No one seems to be paying attention to the enormous figures painted on the walls. Then again - they must be used to them. When I take a picture of a mural depicting an old Mexican lady with the Stars and Stripes wrapped around her head, a passer-by grins at me.

Picture of Pilsen Murals (U.S.A.): Huge mural covering several houses in Pilsen: Increíbles las Cosas que se ven

Apart from the murals, the neighbourhood has a distinctly Mexican feel because of the restaurants and signs in Spanish. Originally started by German and Czech immigrants at the end of the 19th century, naming the neighbourhood after Czech city of Plzen, Mexicans gradually took over after the 1960s, and latinos are still the majority, even though it has now become a hip area for people of any descent. When I start my way back to the waterfront, I spot several smaller murals on both sides of the street, and stop frequently to see them from up close. There are more murals with Aztec themes: pyramids and gods, while there are also doors with voluptuous women with sombreros painted or murals with a political message. It is only when I see the skyline of Chicago again that I remember I am many hundreds of miles north of Mexico.

Picture of Pilsen Murals (U.S.A.): Girl with flower, detail of a mural on the wall of St Vitus church in Pilsen
Picture of Pilsen Murals (U.S.A.): Mexican woman dressed in the Stars and Stripes on a mural in Pilsen
Picture of Pilsen Murals (U.S.A.): Painting on a door in Pilsen
Picture of Pilsen Murals (U.S.A.): Mural with religious theme at a parking lot in Pilsen
Picture of Pilsen Murals (U.S.A.): Religious mural on a house in Pilsen
Picture of Pilsen Murals (U.S.A.): Murals around the corner of St Vitus church in Pilsen
Picture of Pilsen Murals (U.S.A.): Girl painted on the wall of a bar in Pilsen
Picture of Pilsen Murals (U.S.A.): St Vitus church in Pilsen embellished by murals
Picture of Pilsen Murals (U.S.A.): Aztec inspired mural in Pilsen
Picture of Pilsen Murals (U.S.A.): Woman with children on a huge mural above a parking lot in Pilsen
Picture of Pilsen Murals (U.S.A.): Detail of brightly coloured beasts in Pilsen
Picture of Pilsen Murals (U.S.A.): Animal guards with Mexicans studying a book on a mural in Pilsen
Picture of Pilsen Murals (U.S.A.): Murals at the parking lot of the Cooper Dual Language Academy in Pilsen

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