Nov. 4, 1999
Vol. 19 No. 4

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    Community tours encourage students to explore beyond home

    By Jennifer Leovy
    News Office

    With 77 defined neighborhoods that include more than 100 ethnic groups, Chicago offers the University Community Service Center plenty of ground to cover in its quarterly bus tours of the city’s diverse neighborhoods.

    The center offers University members and residents of the community a chance to see and learn about other neighborhoods beyond Hyde Park’s own distinct character. Bus tour participants hear insiders’ views about the culture of their neighborhoods––a perspective that tourists might not get anywhere else.

    Jose Rico, a Pilsen resident who emigrated from Mexico, will conduct a free, interactive bus tour Saturday, Nov. 13, of Pilsen/Little Village, a neighborhood that is the center of Chicago’s growing Latino community.

    “Chicago is a vast city––rich in ways we cannot always see, especially if we do not expose ourselves to the city beyond the Loop or Hyde Park,” said Michelle Obama, Director of the University Community Service Center. “We invite residents who live in the neighborhoods we will visit to conduct the tours, so we can hear their voices rather than institutional ones.”

    Rico said he will share both a personal and personable view of his neighborhood. “Pilsen has been a point of entry for immigrants for more than 100 years. In one way or another, we residents are all newcomers who have made Pilsen our new home,” said Rico. “We have churches started by European immigrants, and we have embraced them and made them our own.”

    Rico, a school facilitator at the Small Schools Workshop at University of Illinois-Chicago, said students who arrive in Hyde Park also are newcomers to Chicago, and he hopes his tour will expose them to a culture they might normally view as worlds away. “Pilsen is less than 15 minutes from Hyde Park,” said Rico, who will highlight the fun, interesting characters in his neighborhood as well as its history.

    The tour will begin with a history of the public art murals in Pilsen, which may have more outdoor murals than any other Chicago neighborhood. Rico will discuss these works of art as well as his community’s architecture, families, politics, economy and development.

    Participants will get an abbreviated tour of the Mexican-American Fine Arts Center Museum. Rico also will explain the current controversy surrounding the East Pilsen Artists Colony and the regentrification of the neighborhood.

    “We hope students on the tour will apply what they learn, for example, in economics to the broader community,” said Pam Bozeman, Assistant Director of the University Community Service Center. “We want them to ask, ‘Does what you’re seeing make sense? Are empowerment zones, welfare reform and investment banking working in this community?’”

    Past tours have included the history of Jewish immigrants in the Austin neighborhood and the historical relationship between the University and its surrounding communities of Woodlawn, Kenwood and Oakland.