As I'm coming from Mexico City -- home to 13,000 surveillance video cameras -- I'm always on the look out for a digital eye watching the scene. This is a public security camera in Pilsen, Chicago. It's a reality in 21st Century big cities: the security forces are watching you. Here, they call them PODs, and there are a lot of them in designated "safe zones."
Graffiti and gang-related homicides are a problem in Chicago. This saddening story tells how tweens attempt to make social lives under the threat of gang violence. "I want to be able to walk around in a neighborhood and not think about getting shot," said a girl named Samaiya.
Of course, there is much more to any hood than whatever criminal profile might be attached to it. In Pilsen, we checked out the National Museum of Mexican Art and had burritos on a main strip.
In Pilsen, as dusk settled. The coldest hour.
An intriguing local craft brew, 5 Vulture.
We took some buses over to Little Village, another heavily Mexican neighborhood but with a more recent-immigrant identity. In the cold, feeling good, we wandered around on a Sunday evening until finding haven in a hoodie dive. They were playing old-school lowrider oldies. I could have been in Modesto or Riverside.
There, we met some local ladies who made it a point to say they didn't like "gangbangers" or guys who were "Trouble." We assured them we were nothing of the sort. Later on, I did some searching. From WaPo:
Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood is home to more than 500,000 residents of Mexican descent and is known for its Cinco de Mayo festival and bustling Mexican Independence Day parade. But federal authorities say that Little Village is also home to something else: an American branch of the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel.
Members of Mexico’s most powerful cartel are selling a record amount of heroin and methamphetamine from Little Village, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. From there, the drugs are moving onto the streets of south and west Chicago, where they are sold in assembly-line fashion in mostly African American neighborhoods.
We happily strolled along, smiling or nodding to any stranger.
(Nice meeting ya, Lucy and Anita and dude in Peyton jersey who bought us all a round!) * Post edited.