Saving Latin Village: The campaign so far
In Seven Sisters, the Latin Village is an indoor market predominantly composed of Latinx-owned shops, and has been home to a variety of migrant communities, the majority hailing from Latin America since the mid-1990s. As soon as you walk in, you are welcomed by the warm sounds of salsa, bachata, and merengue, and the comforting smells of caldo de pollo, frijoles, parrilla, and more dishes familiar to the loyal customers that have been patronising the businesses at the Latin Village since it opened.
Previously dubbed a “mini United Nations” for its palpable diversity, the Latin Village is a hub of businesses gathering market traders, their families, and a collection of customers and local people from multiple nationalities who are able to fulfill a sense of being back home through the sounds of music and television while bonding with others that speak the same language. The unique conviviality of the Latin Village has been described by the actual United Nations as a “dynamic cultural space” that is “inclusive of people from a diversity of places and different generations.” The location boasts an indoor market for food and drink eateries, hairdressers, and money exchanges, as well as mini-markets and butchers that source specialty groceries from all over Latin America. Its recent history tells the tale of a Tottenham driven by community, not profit, and sets an example for London looking forward.
Having fought a long battle against London regeneration schemes led by big developers, Save Latin Village (SLV) aims to materialise a shared vision of a market and affordable living with a proposed community plan. At SLV, we have raised and continue raising public awareness of human rights concerns at the U.K.’s only Latin American indoor market, the Latin Village (also known as “El Pueblito Paisa”), and the second-largest Latin quarter after Elephant and Castle. We are rethinking what urban regeneration can look like in London, without allowing the displacement effect that gentrifying companies create, and instead propose a bottom-up strategy that puts community at the centre.
Following 15 years of relentless campaigning from local residents, small business owners, traders, and supporters of the Save Latin Village campaign, on August 8, 2021, property developer Grainger PLC withdrew from the Wards Corner site in Tottenham, the space where the Latin Village sits. Alongside demolishing the Wards Corner building, Grainger’s original plan intended to wipe out the meeting place of a constellation of Latin American and other migrant communities that depend on the market. It was to be replaced with 190 unaffordable homes and a nondescript shopping centre designed to cater to wealthier recent arrivals, and displace the working-class population that characterises Haringey. The threat of gentrification of the Seven Sisters market dates back to 2002, with several attempts by the developer to gain control of the site. Initially, public consultations showed the overwhelming majority of business owners and local community repeatedly objecting to the developer’s planning applications between 2008 and 2011, until it was eventually approved in 2012.
But the timeline has not been this victorious all along: The thrust of the fight to save the Latin Village comes from its susceptibility to sudden threats to its future. Both a compulsory purchase order (CPO) issued by the council in 2016 to acquire the land required for Grainger’s redevelopment and the unexpected death knell that COVID-19 wrought upon the Seven Sisters market in early 2020 show how precarious this vital hub and the livelihoods of the people that run it are in the face of political ignorance and a lack of institutional support. The CPO was initially rejected, before being approved by the secretary of state for housing, communities, and local government James Brokenshire in 2019.
Over the last five years, the appointment of Quarterbridge/Market Asset Management (MAM) as market operator led to the deliberate mismanagement of the Latin Village, which saw the deterioration of the premises and an increase in targeted hostility toward the traders. Almost coinciding with the onset of COVID-19, the operators attempted to bring the Latin Village to an end with a bullying campaign, which entailed posting eviction notices throughout traders’ units at the market, after Haringey Council rejected its own scrutiny report on MAM’s management of Latin Village. Following reports of misuse of electric networks by the operator, a power cut on March 16, 2020, at the Latin Village started a difficult period for traders. As expected, the global pandemic was used as a lever to enforce the closure of the market under public health claims, with Transport for London taking over its operation in summer 2020 after MAM declared itself insolvent. All essential food outlets were ordered to close only a few days after, and traders were forced to go home. The market is yet to reopen.
This came as a blow. Not only would the market be unable to provide income for traders, it could no longer continue selling the specialised and culturally specific food and products the local Latin American population can’t find as readily on the high street. Haringey Council has recognised the Latin Village market as an Asset of Community Value since 2014, and the United Nations’ human rights experts have said that the market is instrumental in providing “equal participation in economic, social and cultural rights.”
Cut to 2021, and the recent withdrawal of Grainger from the Wards Corner site has been received as an unprecedented achievement in the fight against gentrification. The first community plan for the site began at El Pueblito Paisa in 2007. Now, after four iterations, the current Wards Corner Community Plan — devised by the West Green Road and Seven Sisters Development Trust — is working to preserve the cultural importance of the market by creating dedicated spaces for the Latin American and migrant communities of Tottenham; protecting the businesses that are lifelines for more than 150 workers; and providing an affordable hub for the predominantly ethnic minority communities in the area to gather.
With this monumental shift, the Latin Village stands as a beacon of hope for all the communities currently at risk of urban displacement and the campaigns advocating for them, with whom we share our battles and victories. Indeed, under threat of demolition, our campaign stood stronger with the help of our friends, families, and supporters. We stood alongside our sister campaign in Elephant and Castle, the Latin Elephant, which, although having recently experienced the demolition of their home market in the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre, are still leading the fight in the area, with at least 60 percent of the centre’s businesses relocated to new sites.
For our community, this victory against the developer is a critical step in advancing the fight for minority rights while demonstrating the significance of cultural spaces like those at Elephant and Castle and Seven Sisters. Yet there’s still work to be done. We are closer to gaining the recognition we deserve, and we urge the Mayor of London, the Greater London Authority, and Transport for London to join the Haringey Council in supporting and working with us to implement the community plan. —Jacobo Belilty, Save Latin Village trustee
This year marks a historic win for the Save Latin Village campaign. We hope Save Latin Village’s recent grassroots victory in the fight against the gentrification that encroaches upon our communities’ human rights will send a message of hope and resistance across London’s anti-gentrification campaigns, including Latin Elephant, Save Ridley Road, Save Nour, and other migrant and minority ethnic communities that battle for basic dignity each day.
Despite the euphoria of a much-needed win, it is essential to remember that this collective battle is far from over. Transport for London and the Greater London Authority need to join Haringey Council in supporting the Wards Corner Community Plan, and compensate the traders for all the time that has been lost during the pandemic.
For those who support us, the call to action is to continue amplifying the voice of marginalised London communities, share our story, donate to the campaign, and shop in the many markets that define the city’s rich and diverse culture.
This win shows that when people come together, we have the power and agency to transform the spaces we have a fundamental right to thrive in.
Save Latin Village, alongside the West Green Road/Seven Sisters Development Trust, demands that traders are given a space as a matter of urgency. We will continue to work toward a future wherein Latinx migrants and wider members of the community are able to access their home away from home. We are here to stay, and fight for the respect and visibility that we deserve. —Kieran Kirkwood, Save Latin Village trustee and member of the Save Ridley Road 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.