We left Chicago a week ago and drove for two days. When we got home, I got sick. Today is the first day I felt like I could come to any conclusion about the two weeks we spent in Chicago.
A news story about the number of murders in Chicago this year, 113 so far, and calls for the National Guard to come in, prompted me to reflect on the experience. To a great extent, we were in a bubble by staying in Hyde Park and visiting the Loop and the Magnificent Mile. When you are a tourist in a city, you tend not to see the poorer and more crime-ridden areas
We did go to Pilsen, which is a Mexican- American neighborhood. Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, which I feel gives it a less cohesive identity. Pilsen has a wonderful museum, The National Museum of Mexican Art and a great restaurant, Mundial Cocina Mestiza. There were several closed shops and rundown buildings, but there was also a nice park with several baseball games going on.
Chicago has a large African-American population, although at the museum, an exhibit said that in a few years, Hispanics would be the largest ethnic group. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, many areas of Chicago underwent urban renewal. The government took the lead in these endeavors. Today private developers revitalize neighborhoods, and it is called gentrification.
Hyde Park-Kenwood was one of the areas that experienced urban renewal, although large housing projects were not built there. In this case, both the University and the city played a role. The main consequence appears to be that poor people moved somewhere else and the number of bars diminished.
I live in a college town. This year I have visited other college towns and have been surprised that they are not as similar to Amherst as I would have thought. Neither Raleigh nor Hyde Park had the number of shops, pizza places, bars, restaurants, or bookstores that Northampton and Amherst have. Perhaps what I think of as the typical college town is really more of a New England phenomenon?