Resisting the entrepreneurial city: Street vendors’ struggle in Mexico City’s historic center

Crossa, V.

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Crossa, V. (2009). Resisting the entrepreneurial city: Street vendors’ struggle in Mexico City’s historic center. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 33(1), 43–63.

Entrepreneurial Urban Governance , Mexico City , Programa De Rescate , Resistance , Street Vending

Recent work on entrepreneurial urban governance has focused on the new forms of exclusion produced by neoliberal entrepreneurial urban strategies, arguing that local forms of social–spatial organization are being dismantled through practices ranging from the privatization of urban public space to the emergence of gated communities. By exploring the role of agency amid these changing structures of constraints, this article interrogates processes of socio-spatial exclusion under entrepreneurial forms of urban governance. I argue that despite constraints placed upon different groups of affected citizens, excluded groups develop survival strategies that enable them to maintain a livelihood and in some cases empower them to thrive. I use the case of a recently implemented entrepreneurial policy in Mexico City called the Programa de Rescate (The Rescue Program). The prime objective of the policy is to revitalize and beautify the streets, buildings and central plaza of the city's Historic Center. Although this policy seeks an improvement in the quality of life for the local population, it excludes particular forms of social interaction that are central to the well-being of a large sector of the population, particularly street vendors who rely on public spaces for their daily survival. I use the case of the Programa to show how street vendors have struggled to remain on the streets of Mexico City's Historic Center.

Main finding
The author discusses how two groups of vendors resist the exclusionary practices enacted by the city’s new urban renewal program. Policies disrupted kin networks, social relations among different groups of street vendors, and their sense of community in the city’s Historic Center. Tactics of resistance by one of the vendor groups include: 1) violent conflict with other vending organizations, 2) exploitation of historical alliances with a staunchly neo-liberal party in the form of associational power, and 3) historical alliances with jurisdictional powers through special permitting. The other vendor group’s resistance included: 1) ties with other vending groups to sell in their area and 2) creation of mutual benefits such as use of electricity for street-cleaning and watching stalls (vendors also increased foot traffic to brick and mortar shops). Both groups engage in 'torear' strategies, which is selling while mobile as ways to elude the policy.

Description of method used in the article
The research included 14 months of participant observation techniques, archival research, and open-ended and semi-structured interviews with 20 street vendors, 10 existing and 10 new residents, and 15 local shop owners.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Economic Transactions
Field Observations
Physical types
Markets Streets
Geographic locations