Labor & Workforce

Madrid street sellers go legal, find ‘dignity’ with downtown store

Madrid, Sep 11 (EFE).- In the heart of Madrid’s central Lavapiés neighborhood lies Pantera, the store that the Sindicato de Manteros (‘Street Vendor’s Union’) recently opened in the Spanish capital.

The store represents a community project that the ‘manteros’ — derived from the blankets (‘manta’) they display their wares on — hope can be a way to leave the street behind and achieve “a dignified life,” Malick Gueye, one of its spokespersons, tells Efe.

Next to him, two clerks attend to a customer who has just walked in. They receive him very kindly with a smile on their faces, while showing him all the T-shirts with anti-racist slogans they have for sale — slogans like “Institutional racism condemns the manta”, “Madrid will be the tomb of racism” or “Mbaye”, in reference to the street seller Mame Mbaye who was killed in Lavapiés in March 2018.

Everything they sell at Pantera is self-made, although they receive help from the clothing brand Top Manta, set up in Barcelona by that city’s manteros, and who designed many of the T-shirts that are in the Madrid establishment.

In order to increase production, the union has organized design and screen-printing workshops so that “anyone who sells on the street” can collaborate with them, both in the manufacture of the T-shirts and in the drawings that are printed on them.

Pantera, a name that comes from the American movement ‘Black Panther’, emerged as a place to sell items legally and to get the street vendors off Madrid’s streets.

Malick explains that the ‘manteros’ are inspired by the Black Panthers, since it was a collective “criminalized and persecuted in the United States” and that has always fought for the rights of black people.

“We feel that reference. They generated a community and an economy of their own, with the organization of community breakfasts and meals,” he says.

From the union, the main objective is to create alternatives so that “people are not selling on the street”, because the blanket “is not the dream of any ‘mantero'”, he emphasizes.

The store, which aims to provide a place to work, generate an economy and the opportunity to live with dignity, also wants to expand to online commerce.

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