Market that never opened seen as key to street vendor dilemma

La Pepita is adjacent to the Centro's main markets, but is considered a white elephant. Photo: Google
The market area known as La Pepita sits unused next to the Lucas de Gálvez seafood section. Photo: Google Street View

Mérida, Yucatán — The city is chipping away at the excessive number of street vendors crowding the shopping district.

Now, the president of the chamber of commerce — which represents the shops competing with the street hawkers — is proposing a way to clear the streets more decisively.

The Chamber has proposed reviving La Pepita, an unfinished market space built 15 years ago. On 56-A street, adjacent to the Lucas de Gálvez and El San Benito markets, La Pepita met with resistance from vendors and almost immediately became a white elephant.

The top floor of San Benito is also underutilized, with space that could be occupied by street vendors, he suggested.

Ten years ago, when the problem was at its worst, 1,500 street vendors lined the sideswalks, said the president of the Chamber of Commerce of Mérida, Juan José Abraham Dáguer. Now, he counts about 420, 400 of whom are operating against the law.

The only street vendors sanctioned by the city are balloon vendors, news vendors and troubadours, he said.

The rest should be relocated to markets or commercial zones, he suggested.

The city attempted to mitigate the situation with an indoor mall, but shoppers never followed. Within two years the mall closed after vendors abandoned their shops.

Abraham Dáguer also suggested vendors receive training on starting a legitimate new business, or find them a formal job that allows them to support their families with dignity.

“What we want? We want greater security for all: that the pedestrian can walk safely on sidewalks, that the salesman can carry out his activity without the fear of being withdrawn and without enduring inclement weather, and that consumers can buy in formal establishments, which provide them assurance that the product is of good quality,” said Abraham Dáguer.

“It is very important that citizens are also aware that informality (underground sales) does not benefit anyone, but only to clandestine suppliers,” he said. “We know people do not do it with bad intentions when shopping with street vendors, but they do not realize that it only encourages such informal salespeople.”

Unauthorized vendors take up space meant for pedestrians, sometimes forcing them to the street, he noted. “… They create a danger for the pedestrian because by occupying the sidewalk they force people into traffic, and that is when accidents happen,” he said.

In May, city officials announced that they lacked the 300,000 pesos required to restore La Pepita, including rebuilding its water and power systems.

Instead, officials made a priority of remodeling markets in Cholul and Caucel.

Sources: Diario de Yucatán, Sipse

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