Earlier this week, dozens of sidewalk vendors (known as comerciantes ambulantes) were banished from the banquetas of downtown Tijuana's Centro Histórico district.
The raid on the informal shopkeepers took place on the night of Monday, July 29, and the following day, ridding the area of 182 sidewalk vendors. Although the permits for their cart-and-booth-based businesses have been proscribed since 2010, this is the first time municipal police have rounded up the violators and sent them out of the district.
The historical district of Tijuana consists of the first blocks of the city, roughly the area between Revolución and Niños Héroes, streets that run north-south, and Calle Primera (1st St.) up to Calle Sexta (6th St.), which run east-west.
Prior to the renovation of these blocks with new, wide sidewalks and repaving several years back, the area was frequently occupied by the sidewalk vendors, much to the dismay of the store-based merchants who complained that the informal businesses were competing with them for sales without having to pay taxes to the city. In short, the store owners felt they were subsidizing the street vendors, who frequently sold similar merchandise.
The sidewalk vendors would frequently dominate corners and sidewalks, reducing the sidewalks from a width of 12 feet to approximately 4 feet or less.
The central historical district is perhaps the most heavily trafficked commercial area for pedestrians in the city and includes various taxi and bus transportation hubs and Tijuana’s landmark cathedral. Street vendors defied the 2010 edict, and when their permits expired, they continued to set up shop even into this year.
Jorge Castro Ponce of the Asociación de Comerciantes Ambulantes de Baja California frets that the removal of the street vendors will cause financial hardship, since they are supporting some 300 families with these businesses, selling socks, underwear, sunglasses, Xolos hats, and food items.
Still, mayor Carlos Bustamante backs the clean-up effort, saying, “There will be no going back…. There will not be street vendors in this historical district….”