Mexico City is known for its culture, gastronomy, architecture, and many other qualities. However, street vendors are an important part of the city’s identity as they bring food to hundreds of people yet it seems like some boroughs have launched an offensive against them.
The majority of street vendors in Mexico City sell traditional bread, pan de dulce, and hot beverages like coffee, atole, and hot chocolate.
You can spot them throughout the city at all hours, but especially during mornings and nights when Mexican usually enjoy a cup of coffee and bread.
Street vendors started selling bread and coffee at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. They used wood carts to transport their products or carried large baskets on top of the heads.
This week, Mexico City residents and critics slammed the Miguel Hidalgo borough after officials seized around 140 tricycles from street vendors in the wealthy Polanco neighborhood. Government official Hegel Cortés Miranda said the vehicles would be destroyed, despite being the only sources of income for hundreds of families.
Gerardo Esquivel, the deputy governor of the Bank of Mexico (Banxico) criticized the measure and said low-income people use them to make a living.
Cortés Miranda boasted about the operation on Twitter and argued that street vendors were occupying over 30% of public space, something that goes against current measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Critics and social media users branded the move as classist and said hundreds of families won’t have a source of income amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
After much criticism, local authorities announced they would not destroy the tricycles, and instead, they will donate them to NGOs and public markets. It is unclear if the borough will provide financial aid to the families who no longer have a source of income.
Street vendors and their tricycles
In Mexico City, street vendors use tricycles to transport and sell bread, coffee, tamales, tacos, fruit, corn on the cob, esquites, and many other products.
It is common to see street vendors selling food outside offices, especially in an upscale neighborhood where average workers can’t afford expensive restaurants.
They also use the vehicle to transport their families and take their children to school.
In the capital, local laws establish street vendors can operate as long as they follow certain health measures.
And while Mexico City seized hundreds of tricycles, photographer Julio Aibar paid homage to the tricycle used by street vendors and its importance for the local economy in Yucatán.
He shared a series of pictures on social media, where he emphasizes the importance of the tricycle.
Regarding the incident in Mexico City, the photographer said it is telling that authorities seized the tricycles in neighborhoods like Polanco.
Street vendors face extortion
Street vendors in Mexico City known selling bread and coffee in Polanco are forbidden and in case they do, they might have to pay bribes.
Selling food and beverages outside offices and businesses located in the Miguel Hidalgo borough is profitable for street vendors but in the end, they ended top losing their tricycles and source of income after entering areas like Polanco.
According to street vendors, when local authorities seize their tricycles, they give them a document they can use to recover the vehicle. This is the way things work in the city, except for the Miguel Hidalgo borough, where authorities do not provide any documentation. Sometimes it is cheaper to buy a new vehicle than spend thousands in fines and bribes.
Others said they have to pay weekly fees to Miguel Hidalgo authorities and the local police so they can work in the borough. If they refuse, authorities seize their vehicles and products.
During the pandemic, street vendors sell between MXN 800 and MXN 1,000 per week; nevertheless, before the pandemic, they made around MXN 1,500 per week. Yet they have to distribute a large portion of their profits to the police, local authorities, and others.
Street vendors said “a new leader” is operating in the area. He helps them to avoid authorities in exchange for MXN 500 a week.
Hegel Cortés Miranda said he is aware of the allegations against government officials but he argues there is no evidence of corruption acts.
Source: El Universal