Residents of the Chicago neighborhood of Pilsen, once a cultural mecca for Mexican-American immigrants in the Midwest, are weary of rapid development and gentrification, which threatens this 2.76 square mile community with physical, social, and cultural displacement.
Featuring: Sebastián Hidalgo
United Photo Industries
James Estrin and David Gonzalez, Co-Editors of the New York Times Lens Blog
In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the Chicago neighborhood of Pilsen saw its cultural peak as a mecca for Mexican-American immigrants in the Midwest. The 2.76-square-mile community has seen rapid development, study shows. Yet it is still home to a dwindling Latino population who has seen its average annual household income decline in recent years. Residents here are weary of gentrification—which rears its head in Pilsen not just as housing market displacement but as indirect displacement, which is not physical but social and cultural.
In the course of two years and counting, places that once held a deeper meaning inside this community, which painstakingly created a sense of home here, is now becoming unrecognizable for long-time residents. Those who grew up on the previously unsafe streets—who learned to be hypervigilant, avoiding areas marked by gang signs and known gang hangouts—feel socially isolated and unable to establish relationships with newcomers who don’t understand the history of the neighborhood.
Amid the heated debate about gentrification in Pilsen, this set of photographs brings these less-visible issues to the surface. Scenes include kids playing in their backyard, evictions, interiors of art shows and local businesses, portraits of trauma and violence, crime as it contributes to nurtured behavior and affects the structure of violence.
Documentary photography presented its importance to Sebastián Hidalgo in Mexico in 2008. At the tender-age of twelve he adopted the roll of the observer to witnesses the passing of his grandfather for his absent family members. It was this experience which formulated his devotions to photojournalism and taught him to photograph with empathy and willingness to grow in conjunction with the lives he finds in front of his camera.
Sebastián Hidalgo is a 23-year-old, freelance visual journalist and reporter based in the Chicago and the Midwest. His work focuses the social and systemic pressures and issues in many of Chicago’s Black and Latino communities. Hidalgo began his professional career freelancing for hyper local news outlets such as Austin Weekly News, Wednesday Journal, and Forest Park Review and interned with The Chicago Reporter during the city’s most violent year and the 2016 presidential elections .
In 2017, he was selected as City Bureau–a community-oriented, civic-journalism lab–photojournalist fellowship, where he focused on the social and cultural impacts of gentrification in his home community of Pilsen. The project,“The Quietest Form of Displacement in a Changing Barrio” was featured on the New York Times – Lens, New York Times Race/Related instagram page, Roads & Kingdoms, BESE Media. And has been awarded with Peter Lisagor Award at Headline Club Chicago for Best of Photography in 2017, a finalist for Best photojournalism in the National Association of Hispanic Journalism-Chicago, Second Place for Feature photography from Illinois Press Association, and more.
Today, Hidalgo continues to freelance for hyper-local and national publication such as In These Times, Chicago Magazine, Belt Magazine, The Chicago Reader, Youth Radio, Illinois Humanities and Chicago Public Media-WBEZ, where he currently works as their digital producer.