Vol 33 (2013): Special Issue: Working Lives: Special Issue on Oral History and Working-Class History

Vendors, Mothers, and Revolutionaries: Street Vendors and Union Activism in 1970s Puebla, Mexico

Sandra C. Mendiola García
University of North Texas
Published December 10, 2012


Using oral history interviews, this article explores the different types of work that female street vendors carried out in one of Mexico’s largest cities during the 1970s. It shows that downtown streets were hybrid spaces where female vendors sold merchandise, cared for their children, and built communities among themselves and other members of society. In the early 1970s, local authorities increasingly harassed vendors and sought to remove them from public spaces by employing police repression. Under these circumstances, vending and caregiving became more difficult and dangerous. In the face of such opposition, vendors decided to form an independent street vendors’ union, the Unión Popular de Vendedores Ambulantes (UPVA). The union’s creation rested on support networks that women built over time. Female vendors used the union to solve their problems as vendors and as mothers.