A large crowd has gathered for the face painting portion of non-profit Pros Arts Studio’s Dia de Los Muertos celebration and children all sit patiently while they are quickly transformed into skeletons by simple swipes of black and white paint. “Death is viewed more as a part of life in Mexican culture,” explains face-painter Krystin Grenon. “Face painting is a fun thing—a way to laugh in the face of death.” There certainly is no shortage of laughter in this crowd, despite the fact that tragedy seems just behind the celebration. “The altars in this room,” shares Raquel Garcia, a veteran Dia de Los Muertos volunteer and Pilsen neighborhood expert, “are made by children in the Pros Arts programs. They are often dedicated to other neighborhood children who have lost their lives to gang violence.” Later in the evening, on the march through the neighborhood to El Casa Aztlan (“the heart of the Pilsen community,” according to Garcia) for the last of the evening’s activities, it is difficult to believe that such violence exists here. Families all pour outside their homes to wave at the Dia de Los Muertos procession, which is made up of children and adults holding colorful, hand-crafted banners and papier-mache skeletons. “Where are the gangbangers here?” Garcia asks. “It doesn’t seem like there are any at all.” (Meaghan Strickland)
You tell your buddy before it all begins: “Tonight something bad is going to happen, I can feel it.” He tells you that you say that every night. You tell him that tonight, you mean it.
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Andersonville, Bridgeport, Bucktown, City Life, Edgewater, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Irving Park, Kenwood, Lakeview, Lincoln Square, Little Village, Logan Square, News etc., North Center, Pilsen, Roscoe Village, South Shore, Ukrainian Village, Uptown, Washington Park, Wicker Park, Wrigleyville
By Sean Redmond
Entering Wicker Park by the Blue Line, you emerge into the intersection of Damen, North and Milwaukee to a long-familiar sight. There’s the Double Door across the street, Flash Taco and, until just recently, the façade of Filter, Wicker Park’s former hipster coffeehouse extraordinaire. These staples, like many along these primary roadways, fade into the background with repeated visits; yes, you know you can find Reckless Records and American Apparel and the venues and art galleries in the surrounding area, but getting where you want to go requires little thought once you’re situated enough to put your eyes to the sidewalk and your feet into autopilot. But then one day, you get off the train and, surprise, the boarded-up shell of Filter is replaced with an expansive Bank of America, and your mind jolts back into motion. Suddenly, a wave of thoughts bursts forth: “Man, there are a lot of banks in the area,”or “Wicker Park really is getting commercialized,” or “Maybe I need to start spending more time in Logan Square.”
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