The murals in the mainly Mexican neighborhood of Pilsen have become a summer tourist attraction, not only for their vibrant colors and the portraits of well-known personalities, but also because they tell the story of the Hispanic community in Chicago.

The neighborhood, just five minutes from downtown Chicago, has between 30 and 40 murals, artist Jose Guerrero says.

"The murals are one of the ways in which the people express themselves," he tells Efe. "In them, the people see their achievements, their victories and the significant figures in their history."

For three decades, the 73-year-old Guerrero has organized monthly tours of Pilsen so that tourists can appreciate the murals.

The walking tours began because when the artist painted a mural, people would approach and ask him where they could see more.

Guerrero said that the people are fascinated that the residents of Pilsen portray their heroes in their murals, something that does not occur in other communities in the city.

"Pilsen has always been a spirited neighborhood and doesn't hide its identity," the muralist said.

Among the various themes included in the Pilsen murals are immigration, displacement, education and the Aztecs, as well as historic figures such as Mexican revolutionaries Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa.

For his part, artist Jose Luis Pina, who runs an art school in this neighborhood, recalled that the murals are all part of a tradition that goes back to the Chicano movement.

"This has an old tradition, from the epoch of Chicanismo," he said.

"There are some murals that are painted without regard for recognition, which has been done since the 1970s. (Without regard for recognition), because if you like a wall and you do it with your budget, you seek businessmen or friends who help you with the materials, while there are others that are paid for," he said.

Muralist Alejandro Medina painted a tribute to Mexican singer Joan Sebastian and other figures such as Nobel Peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, labor and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta and actress Maria Felix in a mural beside a Mexican supermarket in the neighborhood.

The artist said he decided to paint Sebastian, who lived in Pilsen in the 1970s, after the owner of the La Huerta store explained to him that the ranchero singer and actor was his idol.

Also, the artist said, Sebastian came to see the mural during a visit to Chicago to give a concert.

"Many people come to see this mural, people from outside the country ask about who this figure on horseback is," he told Efe.

The painter said that the murals help to preserve the identity of the Hispanic residents of Pilsen and also help to create a certain aesthetics in the zone.

"We're beautifying the neighborhood with the murals," said the artist, adding that the owner of the store paid all the expenses of creating the mural, which was painted in 2006.

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