Little Puerto Rico—Threatened?


“No, I hate it. The white people are coming in and it’s getting too expensive to live here.” That is a common response amongst the Humboldt Park community when asked about gentrification, and how it is affecting the community.

The reason many long-time Puerto Rican residents feel resentment toward the white population moving in is because they don’t want to succumb to change and they want to preserve their culture within Humboldt Park. Rafael González, 30, who used to live in Humboldt Park, refers to it as “Little Puerto Rico.” For years the community has worked towards establishing a strong Puerto Rican presence. The fact that condominiums are being built here, slowly flushing out the Puerto Rican residents, is upsetting. Property taxes are rising and the cost of living here is becoming unaffordable.

However, for some the effects of gentrification are not all negative. Some people living in the community are happy to see it improving. They want to see the community thrive and prosper and are happy to see the betterment of its conditions. Residents also like to see gangs being pushed out of the Humboldt Park community, making the streets safer and more comfortable to them.

While some see the effects of gentrification improving the community, residents are unhappy to see the preservation of the Puerto Rican culture sacrificed in order to do so. It all depends on a person’s beliefs and needs. If someone feels threatened walking down the street, then seeing gangs pushed out of the community will be their main priority. Although, that person or group out on the street may not feel threatened, and want to see their friends and family remain in the community.

In order to counteract gentrification, Puerto Ricans and other longtime residents have united in order to ensure that the same would not happen in Humboldt Park that has happened in the Lincoln Park and Wicker Park communities. The Humboldt Park Empowerment Partnership was created out of concern for the Puerto Rican residents being forced to move out due to unaffordable housing and previous attacks on service organizations. As described on their website, in order to stop gentrification, the Humboldt Park Empowerment Zone Strategic Plan was founded in 1996 to uphold the character of the community through programs dealing with cultural traditions, business, and housing.

Whether we like to admit it or not, gentrification is becoming prevalent in the Humboldt Park community. It is up to the community’s residents to ensure that gentrification is stopped, or a peaceful medium is found where the residents can still retain their cultural roots with a condominium here and there.