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From the Archive: Pilsen

Daniel Hautzinger
A still from the original WTTW documentary about Pilsen, 'Port of Entry.'

On Thursday, April 27 at 7:00 pm, a special two-hour broadcast and town hall event marks the premiere of WTTW's original documentary My Neighborhood, which tells the stories of the people who are remaking the Chicago neighborhood of Pilsen from the inside out. The documentary is just one facet of a broader initiative that includes a companion website and community engagement events.

But this is not the first time WTTW has done an in-depth dive into Pilsen. In 1981, the half-hour documentary Port of Entry looked at a neighborhood faced with a 20% unemployment rate, a proliferation of vacant lots, and a gang problem, but also with strong family and community ties. In retrospect, Port of Entry caught Pilsen at a turning point, although many of the problems in the community remain relevant today. It focuses on immigration, tracing the journey of one prominent community member from Mexico to Chicago; debates gentrification, counterpointing the viewpoints of a developer and a Mexican community member; and the efforts of community members to improve their own lot as well as the community through investing in the area. 

One of the community members featured in Port of Entry says at one point, "If it were up to the people that live in this community, the future could be good and could be a bright future, could be a community that's going to live longer." More than 35 years later, the new My Neighborhood documentary shows how much brighter that future has become.