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Neighborhood Beefs

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Every itty bitty little thing has its own politics. Pilsen's mural culture is no exception. Gentrification and neglect has threatened many of the neighborhood's iconic murals from the 70s through the present. People are tearing down older structures, wiping out murals in the process. Couple this with city policy that erases any mural that gets tagged and you have a recipe for endangered species. A 2006 program called the Pilsen Quality of Life plan sought to defend, repair, and replace murals, but so far has been a disappointment. But there's lots of new mural activity, so what's the problem? Well, the old garde muralist, led by Oscar Romero and Hector Duarte, is engaged in a war of words with the new Pilsen muralist over content and worth to the community. In essence, the "cartoonish" exploits of new artist transplants to the area come across as vapid and self-indulgent to the older practitioners. The older generation sees their work as fundamental to the area's Mexican heritage. However, new census stats on Pilsen fly in the face of perception: the neighborhood's population is only 25% Latino by heritage. Seems like some good old fashioned coexistence is in order. [Chicago Talks, previously, photo: flickr user floozefactor]