The smells, sounds, and colours of the latin market in north London’s Seven Sisters area are part of the culture that community members and traders have mobilised to defend. The local authority and a developer aim to transform this area into yet another enclave of “unaffordable” flats and chain stores.
From the corridors where children play to cumbia dances, these photos reflect the culture and the lives at stake in this fight.
Children play and teenagers hang out in the market’s many corridors. On either side, small units on two floors contain restaurants, beauty salons, and stores selling Latin American food, clothes, African fabrics or telenovelas.
The latest Latin American mega hits are generally playing and sometimes people sing to them or start dancing. The balconies of the market are inspired by Pueblito Paisa, a miniature replica of a typical Antioquia village, located outside Medellin in Colombia.
Women from Colombia make up the largest group of traders at the market. Others come from Peru, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. Many have already lived experiences of displacement. They describe the market as crucial to their economic empowerment as women.
Vicky Alvarez, from Colombia, talked to me in her office at the market where a photo of her daughter’s first communion hangs on the wall. “Sometimes,” she said, “I get here in the evening, I see how people dance, the silly things they say, and I hear a strange word, one I haven’t heard for a long time, and I think how sad it would be for all of this to disappear”.
Maria Hinestroza started a dance group which first performed in the market’s corridors. She prefers cumbia as it’s closest to her Afro-Colombian heritage. Here, Hinestroza dances at an event to raise money for the traders' legal fees.