Book Review: Historical Contexts of Street Vendor Politics in the Mexican State
by Walter E. Little
Street Democracy: Vendors, Violence, and Public Space in Late-Twentieth-Century Mexico
García Sandra Mendiola Street Democracy: Vendors, Violence, and Public Space in Late-Twentieth-Century Mexico. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2017.
Street vendors constitute one of the largest sectors of the global economy. Their presence is ubiquitous in the Global North and South, where they may be incorporated into the formal economy as taxpaying and permit-holding business owners or vilified by elites, fixed business owners, and government officials as a blight on urban aesthetics, unfair competitors, and health and zoning hazards. Latin American street vendors’ economic practices, lifestyles, and struggles have been well documented by anthropologists, geographers, historians, political scientists, and sociologists, but in Street Democracy: Vendors, Violence, and Public Space in Late-Twentieth-Century Mexico the historian Sandra Mendiola García makes significant contributions to our understandings of how street vendors organize and survive in a politically hostile environment and how grassroots democracy functions. Despite her claim to bring together their economic and political histories (2), little of her book relates to economics. Rather, it is a well-researched description of how street vendors organize politically and re-envision their social and political relations with each other and with social and political actors such as students and neighborhood associations. Drawing on a wide range of archival sources and on oral history and interviews, she reconstructs the struggles of street vendors in Puebla, Mexico, from roughly 1970 to 1990 to form the Unión Popular de Vendedores Ambulantes (Popular Union of Street Vendors—UPVA) and resist the efforts of the local government and its elite allies to squash their sales and remove them from the historic center of the city.
CONTINUE READING THE FULL ARTICLE HERE