Well, we know I live in Chicago, but within that, I live in a neighborhood called Little Village or La Villita. And don’t think of neighborhood like a subdivision. Think neighborhood as in 3 mile by 2 mile area (totally approximate). Chicago is on a grid and all parts of the city divided into neighborhoods. It’s much easier to navigate that way. I LOVE learning my way around. I love beginning to learn to navigate a new city. Just ask my housemates, I’m sure they’ll tell you that I spent an inordinate amount of time asking and re-asking for the explanation of how the streets work in Chicago.
Little Village is a mostly Mexican-American neighborhood. During my first few days here, I had a moment, about 10-seconds long, where I forgot I wasn’t in Mexico. I hear Spanish outside from my window at night. There is a taco stand across the street from us that sets up every day in an abandoned lot. Most of the store signs are in Spanish. As a tall white girl (guera or gringa, whichever you prefer), I stand out like a sore thumb. Because it is a largely Latino immigrant neighborhood, it is definitely on the impoverished side. One of my housemates works for an organization that provided her with all the statistics about our area. I can’t remember the numbers but the Little Village-Pilsen area has much higher unemployment, poverty, crime, etc. than the average for Illinois, probably unsurprisingly.
But I LOVE IT! For one, I had always considered spending more time in Latin America post graduation, but this seems like another way of fulfilling that desire 😉 Also, it’s immersion into a new way of life, to living in solidarity with others. When you live in an area different from the one you grew up in (aka not the burbs, complete with gang activity- don’t worry, we take lots of precautions!), your perspective on life and circumstance changes immensely. It’s walking in the shoes of another, not just for the sake of it, but for the sake of the gospel.
Shane Claiborne, in his book, Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers, reminds us that we are not taught to pray that we are to be kept from pain; suffering is the inevitable plight of Christians who are disturbed by the comfort of their neighbors. He comments,
Most of us live in such fear of death that it’s no small wonder few people believe in resurrection anymore. Sometimes people ask us if we are scared , living in the inner city. We usually reply with something like, “We’re more afraid of shopping malls.” (p53)
It may not be what we’re used to, but it’s many people’s reality, and now it’s ours too. We’re getting to know more of the human family this way and we’ll be changed from the inside out. And hopefully, it will makes us more powerful instruments of change too.
[Side note: My madre and others, don’t stress too much. This probably makes it sound more threatening than it is. It’s just different. And we don’t do anything stupid to put ourselves in harm’s way. Most people in the neighborhood are nice and friendly. It’s not like a war zone or anything. It’s city-ish. Just want to make that clear 😉 ]
But I don’t work in this neighborhood. Where I live and where I work are night and day from each other. But that’s for next post 😉
For now, some pics!
Compliments to my housemates for taking the pics! I hardly took any so far.