Mexico City’s Homeless Population Gets Entrepreneurial

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When one inhabits the world’s most populated streets, it’s not very difficult to fall through the cracks. Mexico City is the stage set for a chaotic and peculiar play: mundane routine steeped in flurry and hubbub. There is no underlying order, nor design. The private dissolves into the public. Trams, motorbikes, buses and bodies risk collision at any moment. People yell loudly to celebrate, to commiserate and to advertise. Eyes, tongues and testicles float in vats of boiling stock, co-inhabiting pavements with shoe-shiners and sex workers. It’s reality theatre. And it’s impossible to avoid that some things, and people, pass by unperceived.

In every city in the world, if you are homeless, you are invisible. The street might be your home, but you share it with every other inhabitant of the city, and they don’t often do a very good job of sharing it back. Mi Valedor would like to alter this dynamic. We want to provoke encounters between unlikely pairings: people from all walks of life who don’t have the chance, or the initiative, to talk to someone who might just be a kindred soul. For any inhabitant of a city, this exchange can be an eye-opener. For a homeless person, this exchange represents a confirmation of the validity of their presence.

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Mi Valedor is a street magazine which is taking the sales model of The Big Issue in London and adapting it to Mexico City. Vendors sell the magazine on the streets, thus exchanging a moment with people who might not otherwise have looked their way. They are micro-entrepreneurs, buying the magazine at cost price and selling it to make a profit. They must learn how to organise their finances in order to save their earnings and buy more issues. Inspired by the international success of street papers, which now exist everywhere from Sao Paulo to Kuala Lumpur, we want to ensure that Mexico’s homeless can also earn a legitimate wage and, most importantly,  learn -or re-learn- to integrate harmoniously into mainstream society.

The publication Mi Valedor attempts to capture the flurry and hubbub of Mexico City: each issue is a visually rich portrait of its everyday occurences, contrasts and coincidences. We offer art, textiles and photography workshops to our vendors so that their own realities may contribute to the collective memory of the city. A ‘valedor/a’ in Mexican Spanish is your buddy, or pal – someone who’s got your back. Mi Valedor is not a hand-out: it’s a hand up from the cracks.

You can find out more about the project and show your support here.

 

 

Delphine is a photographer, writer and translator based in Mexico City, focused on the aesthetics and politics of contemporary art – in particular collective memory and identity. Photography director at Mi Valedor.

Pictures by Delphine Tomes.