Street vendors in Mexico City

Cristóbal de VillalpandoView of the Plaza Mayor of Mexico city (1695), with market sellers in the main plaza
Informal markets are found in public spaces throughout the city
Woman selling herbs in Mexico City's Historic Center
Candy and nuts sold from a pushcart in Colonia Roma
Vendor selling fruit from the back of a truck in the Historic Center of Mexico City
Setting up an ice cream stand on Avenida Ámsterdam in Condesa

The presence of Street vendors in Mexico City (known locally in Mexican Spanish as ambulantes) dates back to pre-Hispanic era and over the centuries the government has struggled to control it, with most recently a clearing of downtown streets of vendors in 2007, but despite this there is a persistent presence of many thousands illegally.[1] In 2003 it was estimated that there were 199,328 street vendors in Mexico City.[2]


Prior to the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, commercial activity primarily took place in the tianguis or marketplaces. In New Spain, outside of the controlled mercado or market on the Zócalo and other squares, street vendors emerged, then called buhoneros. Efforts to control street vendors date back to at least 1541, when the city government prohibited itinerant vendors.[3][4]

The 1970s and 1980s saw huge growth in the number of vendors.[5]

In 1993 the first of several major efforts (each only partially successful) to reduce street vending in the Historic Center of Mexico City began, with the removal of about 10,000 vendors from the streets and construction of markets (plazas comerciales) to reaccommodate them, as well as subject them to tax codes, health regulations and otherwise pay the full "costs of formality."[5][6]

In 1998 guidelines attempting to formalize and bring order to the sector were published as the Programa de Reordenamiento del Comercio en Via Publica, or Program for the Reordering of Trade in the Public Streets,[5] however street vending continued to grow.[2] Efforts to remove the vendors eventually failed as vendors returned to the streets. During the 1990s and 2000s street vendors have paid union leaders "dues" in exchange for the right to occupy a piece of sidewalk without city permission, an illegal act. The unions in turn, bribed and lobbied city officials to allow the vendors to stay.[7]

Finally, in October 2007 the streets of the Historic Center were cleared of vendors with much success, which was considered a victory for mayor Marcelo Ebrard.[7] However, toreros (literally "bullfighters") remain active in the area — people who sell merchandise from a tarp on the ground which converts to a bag that they can carry the merchandise in and carry it away when police show up to clear illegal street vendors.[1]

Types of street vendors and products

Street vendors in a variety of formats, with items sold from:[8]

Vendors selling from stalls may be organized into a number of formats:


A 2013 study revealed just in the Historic Center of Mexico City:[1]

A 2003 INEGI study showed 199,328 street vendors in Mexico City proper (Mexican Federal District).[2]

A study in the mid-1990s had estimated the number of street vendors as follows:

– Source: [10]


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