Street Democracy


Street Democracy

Vendors, Violence, and Public Space in Late Twentieth-Century Mexico

Sandra C. Mendiola García

The Mexican Experience Series

294 pages
12 photographs, 1 map, index


April 2017


$70.00 Add to Cart

April 2017


$30.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

April 2017


$30.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

April 2017


$30.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

No visitor to Mexico can fail to recognize the omnipresence of street vendors, selling products ranging from fruits and vegetables to prepared food and clothes. The vendors compose a large part of the informal economy, which altogether represents at least 30 percent of Mexico’s economically active population. Neither taxed nor monitored by the government, the informal sector is the fastest growing economic sector in the world.   

In Street Democracy Sandra C. Mendiola García explores the political lives and economic significance of this otherwise overlooked population, focusing on the radical street vendors during the 1970s and 1980s in Puebla, Mexico’s fourth-largest city. She shows how the Popular Union of Street Vendors challenged the ruling party’s ability to control unions and local authorities’ power to regulate the use of public space. Since vendors could not strike or stop production like workers in the formal economy, they devised innovative and alternative strategies to protect their right to make a living in public spaces. By examining the political activism and historical relationship of street vendors to the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Mendiola García offers insights into grassroots organizing, the Mexican Dirty War, and the politics of urban renewal, issues that remain at the core of street vendors’ experience even today. 


Author Bio

Sandra C. Mendiola García is an assistant professor of history at the University of North Texas.


"Mendiola García’s use of oral interviews and photographs brings Puebla’s streets to life, giving us a sense of the sights, smells, and quotidian rhythms of these dynamic public spaces. Those sources also shed light on aspects of the UPVA’s history that written documents obscure, especially the central role that women played in the union despite their exclusion from the highest rungs of its leadership. . . . The author’s prose is lucid, and the book is a pleasure to read. It will certainly interest historians of twentieth-century Mexico and Latin America as well as scholars of neoliberalism, the informal economy, and social movements across the global South. It would be an excellent addition to graduate and upper-level undergraduate courses."—Andrew Konove, Hispanic American Historical Review

"Mendiola García's research casts light on Mexico's recent political and economic history, particularly that of unions and social movements during the adoption of neoliberal policies."—Emilio de Antuñano, H-LatAm

"This is an exciting new book that should make a big splash in the still-rather-small historiography of urban Mexico."—Matthew Vitz, Pacific Historical Review

“An innovative and highly original book that reveals new findings on the twilight of the PRI rule in Mexico. . . . Street Democracy breaks new ground in the rapidly expanding field of post-1940 Mexico.”—Alex Aviña, author of Specters of Revolution: Peasant Guerrillas in the Cold War Mexican Countryside

“Mendiola García nimbly transports us to the streets of Puebla, where everyday men, women, and children redefine their roles from simple peddlers to organized vendors. She expertly traces the shift in organizing tactics and identity politics in response to state repression and the neoliberal bend.”—Gabriela Soto Laveaga, author of Jungle Laboratories: Mexican Peasants, National Projects, and the Making of the Pill

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Chapter One: Prelude to Independent Organizing: Politics and Vendors
Chapter Two: Vendors and Students in the 1970s
Chapter Three: Staging Democracy at Home and Abroad
Chapter Four: The Dirty War on Street Vendors
Chapter Five: From La Victoria to Walmart
Chapter Six: The Struggle Continues


Also of Interest