Underground Economy and Urban Renewal in Mexico
Mexico Runs on Sidewalk EconomyBy Marla DickersonTimes Staff WriterMay 9, 2005
TLALNEPANTLA, Mexico — When authorities decided to clean up this town, they didn't take any chances. Police swooped in just before midnight, armed with riot gear and backhoes. The invaders were repelled, the streets reduced to rubble.
A sneak attack to eradicate drug dealers? Gang members? Armed insurgents?
No, municipal leaders were uprooting sidewalk vendors, mostly women and senior citizens, whose makeshift taco stands and clothing stalls were clogging the city center. Ordered to relocate to make way for an urban renewal project, most wouldn't budge, leading authorities to eject nearly 1,900 of them by force.
"The mayor wants to create a tidy First World city in this place where people have nothing," said Jose Luis Vargas, the leader of a group of vendors protesting their ouster in late March. "Better to die fighting than to die of hunger."