Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Colorful and Controversial Street Vendors

The pre-Christmas scene in San Victorino. Vendors, who are illegaly using public space, spread their wares on plastic sheets, so they can gather them up and flee when police arrive. 
Bogotá's always full of street vendors, but during the holiday season they really pack the city's streets and plazas. Generally, they are selling illegaly - but the police enforcement of public space laws are very selective and unpredictable. One day, they don't bother the vendors, the next they sweep through. They clear the vendors off of one plaza and leave them undisturbed across the street. It's strange and quizzical. Half measures? Corruption?

One thing is certain. Street vending provides work and income for many unemployed, low-skilled Colombians, including the millions of people displaced by the armed conflict. 

Storm troopers marching across Plaza San Victorino. That morning, the vendors had staged a demonstration. 
This food vendor got caught. In the distance, you can see his fleeing companions.
Many street vendors are indigenous immigrants from Ecuador, and some called the police sweeps persecution of immigrants.
These women used their time for Bible study. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours
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