In August, after a 15-year fight to preserve Tottenham’s Latin Village, a group of local organisers overcame developers, local politicians, and more to rescue a vital culinary and cultural hub. Here, one of those organisers explains why this was about identity, belonging, and a sanctuary for London’s Latinx disapora.
North London’s Latin Village introduced me to a beloved community in a time when I felt overwhelmingly disconnected from my own heritage. I’m a first-generation migrant from Chile, and I was uprooted and moved with my family as a 3-year-old to the small town of Felixstowe. It comes as no surprise that I struggled to meet Latinx people like myself in this majority-white coastal town. In my isolation, I attempted to reject absolutely everything that resembled my Chilean culture; the memories were blurred and seemed like a painful signifier of my “foreignness” amid the stony shores I was meant to call home. However, the most unwavering connection I had to my roots was always through food.
I can still fondly recall the rich scent of my mum’s cazuela de pollo — a simple yet mouthwatering chicken stew — filling the house. I would always be the first to run to the dinner table in eager anticipation of the brothy concoction of tender carrots, chicken, potatoes, sweetcorn, and green beans (depending what was in the fridge), flavoured with garlic, oregano, and fresh coriander. I would beg my mum to make empanadas for special occasions, parcels of oven-baked savoury goodness filled with Chilean pino mix: ground beef seasoned with cumin, hard-boiled eggs, olives, and raisins. Every mouthful left a heavenly aftertaste that was always accompanied by my all-time favourite condiment, a spicy Chilean salsa called pebre.
It was in 2017 that I moved to Tottenham and stumbled across the Latin Village indoor market. I was instantly drawn in by the sound of Latin American Spanish in the air, followed by the sight of displays filled with golden, Colombian-style empanadas and cheesy pandebonos enticing passersby. Market traders greeted both curious first-time visitors and well-versed regulars with the same warm smiles. You were guaranteed a generous plate of food made with love and the rich flavours of home.
The excitement of finding an unexpected sanctuary in this pocket of London is something I hope future generations of the Latinx diaspora can one day experience. For myself and many others, food is an essential bridge to our Latin heritage. The memories of our Save Latin Village family eating, dancing, and plotting our next fundraisers and protests in the narrow pasillos of the indoor market keep us fighting to preserve not only the Latin Village’s physical space, but its cultural and social significance.
The Latin Village indoor market has been closed since March 2020, and our North London Latin American community continues to be without its hub. Whilst we celebrate this victory, we simultaneously urge Transport for London to join Haringey Council in support of the community plan, and to provide financial support for market traders as a matter of urgency. In the meantime, there are plenty of Latin cafes, restaurants, and supermarkets to support across London. This includes, and is by no means limited to, Botellón Latino By Fabian in Tottenham, which our SLV team loves for their indulgent Colombian dishes such as the bandeja paisa. Or Sabor Peruano in Elephant and Castle, which stands out among a growing list of restaurants in need of support as the pandemic abates. Save Latin Village will proudly keep fighting to protect these vital community spaces where the Latinx diaspora, and wider migrant community, can feel closer to home, one nostalgic meal at a time.
Javie Huxley is a London-based illustrator and co-chair of the Save Latin Village campaign.
If you would like to support Save Latin Village in the next stage of their campaign, please consider donating to the West Green Road/ Seven Sisters Development Trust. For regular updates follow Save Latin Village on their socials.