Having more Mexican immigrants than any other city in the U.S. other than Los Angeles, it’s no wonder Mexican cuisine is such an integral part of Chicago’s South Side cultural experience.
Migrants have brought their culture, traditions and food to the community established in the neighborhoods of Pilsen and Little Village, where their heritage has become a central part of our city, according to Chicago Eater. Here they carry on the traditions from their homes of Jalisco, Nuevo Leon, Morelos, Michoacan and San Luis Potosi and Chicago Eater recently posted a guide to finding these cultural locations.
Many of the businesses located in Little Village and Pilsen are family owned and operating, doing things the same way they did back home. With over 100 years of history between the Chicago culture and the Mexican culture, the two seem to compliment each other seamlessly.
“A lot of the first immigrants were from Western and Northern Mexico,” according to Chicago Eater. “After the Mexican revolution, this new national identity was created with the muralists [and] the vibrant colors. You cannot escape from the artwork whenever you go eat.”
Laura Gutierrez, Nueva Leon restaurant owner, told Chicago Eater about her family’s experiences coming to Chicago. When her father moved into the community and purchased his restaurant, it was primarily a Bohemian and Czech neighborhood, but Mexican immigrants were beginning to flood the scene.
“Ever since I can remember, my nightly ritual is to be going down to the restaurant,” Gutierrez told Chicago Eater. “Two flour tortillas, our famous refried beans and Grandma’s mole sauce.”
She said their success is founded on friendship and knowing their customers by name as they build a relationship with the community.
For many, their restaurants are a symbol of success and a reminder of the hard work and Salvador Hernandez is no exception. Hernandez owns Los Gallos and told Chicago Eater it is his reminder that hard work pays off.
With tensions growing for many immigrants, it is satisfying to know Chicagoans appreciate what they bring to the city as it is their city as much as it is ours. Mexican heritage, culture and cuisine have become a key part to the city’s vibrant lifestyle and Little Village and Pilsen seem to be the peak of it all.