Concepts, Research, Policy
Edited by Sylvia Chant
Chapter 29: Youth, Gender and Work on the Streets of Mexico
Gareth A. Jones and Sarah Thomas de Benítez Introduction Stand at the junction to any major thoroughfare of a Mexican city and one cannot but notice the number and diversity of street-workers. Many, though not all, will be part of the ‘informal’ sector, possibly selling foodstuffs or clothing, others may be engaged in more obviously illegal activities such as the sale of DVDs (pirateria) or goods stolen, smuggled or manufactured without licence (fayuca). Some activities may be legal or give the appearance of formality such as those conducted by uniform-clad sellers of mobile phonecards, ice-creams or newspapers. Many activities are services, including cleaning car windscreens, fixing appliances or shining shoes, or entertainment such as acrobats and fire-eaters. Some long-standing services, such as letter-writing and story-telling, have almost faded away, while others such as prostitution are firmly entrenched in street life. Street-work is ever changing with the availability of new products and new technologies, responding to the formulation of new regulations or the possibilities of globalisation. To the sharp eye of artists like Francis Alys, the street economy depicted in his photographic collection ‘Ambulantes’ (‘Pushing and Pulling’) captures the vibrancy of public space. What many academics consider to be the ‘underground economy’ is conducted in public view even if, as we explore in this chapter, not all dimensions are immediately visible. The presence of street-workers in Mexican cities has long been a preoccupation of national and city officials, concerned about the effects on public health and security, the protection of...
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