Humboldt Park is a large, West Side Chicago neighborhood with a population that is three-quarters Latino. It has a well-defined Puerto Rican community that has become the heart and soul of the neighborhood. The center of local life in Humboldt Park is “Paseo Baricua,” a section of Division Street marked by huge 59-foot metal Puerto Rican flag structures. Paseo Baricua is a commercial corridor running between Western and California avenues where many Puerto Rican nationals have established businesses. Even the buildings are reflections of old San Juan, mimicking the Spanish Colonial architecture of the Caribbean port. This section of Division Street is awash with proud heritage, colorful murals and the distinctive aromas of traditional Caribbean cooking.
Throughout the Midwest, Paseo Baricua is a well-known hub for Puerto Rican culture. It has served as a common ground for Puerto Ricans for decades and is the only officially designated Puerto Rican neighborhood in the U.S. The newly renovated Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture invites visitors to enjoy the history and creative contributions of the tiny island nation. Visit in June and experience Humboldt Park’s annual Puerto Rican Festival, which has attracted as many as 1.8 million people over the six-day event.
Humboldt Park’s strong Puerto Rican culture made it an ideal setting for the 2008 movie Nothing Like the Holidays, which follows the story of a Puerto Rican family reuniting for Christmas. The feature length film was shot on location in Humboldt Park and released in theaters across the country to rave reviews.
The Latin American influence in Humboldt Park is prominently portrayed in its dining alternatives, which focuses on Mexican and Puerto Rican cuisine. Borinquen Restaurant on California Avenue has built up a reputation for its authentic jibarito sandwich, which replaces slices of bread with fried plantains. The subtle sweet taste is balanced with a zip of garlic that has warranted mention on the Food Network and in Travel and Leisure magazine. Papa’s Cache Sabroso on Division Street is one of those little hole-in-the-wall eateries that may not be much to look at but makes a mean plate of slow-roasted lechon (pork) for cheap. The cafeteria-style kitchen at La Palma on Homan Avenue is a popular place to get arroz con gandules (rice and peas), widely considered Puerto Rico’s national dish. For the best Mexican food, Humboldt Parker loyalty is split between the various taquerias and cantinas, which are found on every other block of the neighborhood.
Humboldt Park is located about six miles west of downtown Chicago. The Chicago public transit Blue Line train stops in the northeast corner of the community at Western and Armitage avenues, but most travelers use the bus system to get around. The Chicago Avenue bus (#66) heads east towards Lake Michigan.