Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thai in Little Italy

When I was asking my students about their weekend on Monday, one of them said "We went to Little Italy and had Thai." I knew exactly where they had gone - but I was struck with how he said it - he was awe struck. Later that day, I was driving through my old neighborhood, Pilsen, I was realizing how much it looks like Little Italy - which you have to look for the old country Italian -among the stereotypical college town street along Taylor. Pilsen is becoming that - lots of different preppy stores are popping up as well as all the ethicities of eatteries can be found due to the UIC growth.

What does this mean for the City of Neighborhoods? When the neighborhoods change and become less distinct, is that good, bad or just frustrating? UIC's growth is more than frustrating....neighborhoods that have a long ethnic history and then are taken over by mobile college students is a problem. And yet, what does it mean that I just went to that Thai place in Little Italy last night?

How are concerned people to care for this in economic and political terms? For an cup-is-half-full-girl, I am not sure if the cup is half-full on this issue.


Scott said...

I see what you're saying, Krista. But complete homogeneity is not always the point, is it? For then you would not be living in Garfield Park. I sympathize with your query - when should we be distinct, and when should we mix? Lets make sure we don't get this answer wrong, otherwise the Mennonite Church in North America might be doomed to be a church of only the white, middle class folk.

Krista said...

Good point Scott - however, my challenge is really about it really fair for a university to buy up land and change it for the "safety" of its students, like UIC's history has done? This is an economic question in Pilsen. The wealthy college students are coming in and cornering the market in Pilsen, a historically low income Mexican neighborhood. If the answer was a mixed income neighborhood - that would be fine. However, history shows that in Chicago - mixed income neighborhood are a rare find and probably not how Pilsen will turn out.

And for the record, I do not live in Garfield Park because I want to make it a multi-ethnic neighborhood - that would be arrogant and unneighborly. Instead, I love the people and I understand that you can not really understand a neighborhood until you live in it. When I lived in Pilsen, I would speak to DOOR folks about Garfield Park and how great it was. Now, I speak less and live more.

Scott said...

Krista, thanks for explaining some more of the history of the UIC area to me - not knowing the history of the area, I misunderstood your description of the gentrification of Pilsen simply as more shops and businesses of differing ethnicities taking root in the area. Knowing this, I fully agree with your concern for the direction the neighborhood is taking. I hope my comment regarding your residence in Garfield Park can be seen as coming from this lack of understanding of the situation - I would never suggest that by living in Garfield Park, you are trying to arrogantly force a multi-ethnic neighborhood. Believing that your concern for Pilsen was simply due to businesses of different ethnicities setting up shop, I was trying to understand why you would then choose to live in Garfield Park - please forgive my misunderstanding of your original post, which stemmed from my lack of understanding of the history of Chicago.

I admire your passion for the neighborhoods and people of Chicago. After working with you for a month, I am very excited that you are the person who works with all the DOOR particpants and youth from across North America. Keep wrestling with these tough questions for which there are no easy answers!

Krista said...

Scott, I like your challenge...thanks for thinking about it.