Homeless individuals protested to demand respect for their human rights and against forced displacement.. Fotografía de Eréndira Aquino
Photography by Eréndira Aquino

Homeless individuals protested to demand respect for their human rights and against forced displacement.

By María Cristina Pérez Venegas

On Friday, January 13th, it was an important day for the streets of this “city of rights.” An organized group of homeless individuals decided to put a stop to acts of social cleansing. They appeared resolute and confident.

Photo by Eréndira Aquino

The events unfolded as follows: Before noon on Thursday, January 12th, the mayor of the Cuauhtémoc delegation arrived at the exit of the Hidalgo metro station next to San Fernando Square. Her intention was to continue operations to “reclaim public spaces” by removing informal vendors, trash, and homeless people. She had expressed this months earlier in a video she posted on her social media: “A very significant issue we have is all those who don’t like order… we have many businesses overflowing, we have homeless people, we have many people with addiction problems who come and take over the streets… we need the streets to look nice.” [1]

Following this logic, where the need for “nice” streets takes precedence over those without homes, the mayor arrived at the designated site accompanied by a convoy, and asked the people staying there to move their belongings and leave the area. This request was accompanied by insults; she called them aggressive and criminals. One member of the convoy told a woman from the affected group, “You should get a job” (displaying ignorance about the life paths that lead people to the streets, as well as the fact that people on the streets work to survive, whether through informal trade, washing windshields, or collecting recyclable materials, for example).

After the authorities piled their belongings on the street across and placed plants in the planter from which they had been removed, the affected individuals decided not to give in once again. This was not the first time they had been intimidated. Life on the streets is accompanied by police harassment, insults from neighbors, and mistreatment (such as when trucks come to clean and wet their belongings, move them, or apply pressure for them to go to overcrowded, disciplinary shelters…).

To support this group of people, members of LLECA, Psicocalle, and other collectives that support the homeless arrived. The LLECA girls (a collective that includes trans women who are homeless) were particularly upset because the alternatives offered by the government are shelters. One of their colleagues had recently been transferred to the Evaluation and Referral Center known as “Coruña.” She recounted that she had been violently beaten there for violating the rules. She is a blind trans woman. Many stories like this are known among those who live in public spaces. Shelters have not represented an effective or dignified alternative for those who have been forced to make a life on the streets.

Therefore, at the initiative of those affected in San Fernando, they decided to put a stop to it. To organize, speak clearly, and demand a hearing. On Friday morning, they gathered to discuss options, and it was collectively decided to block the two avenues intersecting at the scene: Hidalgo and Guerrero. These are two very important roads in the city center, so the citizen pressure was immediate. They stopped traffic, displaying banners calling for an end to acts of social cleansing and demanding dialogue with the authorities. They established that they would not relinquish the streets until the Head of Government or her Secretary General arrived.

Photo by Eréndira Aquino

Officials from the City Government arrived at the scene, with whom they refused to speak. Later, the head of the Council to Prevent Discrimination and the personal assistant to the Secretary of Government arrived. They agreed to talk to them, but when they asked them to clear the streets to have the dialogue in their government offices, they replied that the protest would not end unless the dialogue took place right there, on the street. Victoria Sámano from LLECA exclaimed that a significant part of the problem had to do with the distance between officials and the streets, and that it was time for them to get closer to them. In some way, they said, “These are our offices! We’re going to disscus here.”

Six hours after the blockade began, the Secretary of Government arrived. They then allowed traffic to resume and established agreements. In the coming weeks, dialogues will be held to seek solutions to the confrontation between the authorities and those who live in that area.

Throughout the protest, they made it clear that shelters – where frequent mistreatment is alleged – are not the solution. They are asking for dignified work or facilities to access housing.

Photo by Eréndira Aquino

Some passersby insulted them, shouting things like “Get a job!” Among themselves, they encouraged each other to stay calm and act peacefully because they understood that the path to a solution lies in dialogue.

[1] La Octava Noticias, “@SandraCuevas_ dice que a las personas en situación de calle ‘no les gusta el orden’ y las redes responden”, Publicación de Twitter @laoctavadigital, 14 de enero de 2022, shorturl.at/cDU69


María Cristina Pérez Venegas

María Cristina Pérez Venegas

Licenciada en Derecho y Maestra en Teoría Política. Es voluntaria en Mi Valedor @cristinaperezve

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