Author: Lucía Blanco Gracia
This article is part of Changing the Narrative. Articles in this series are written by student or early career journalists who took part in The Local’s training course on solutions-focused migration reporting. Find out more about the project here.
There is a place in the center of Barcelona, open-plan and full of T-shirts with anti-racist messages, where the most-heard language is not Spanish or Catalan, but Wolof, sprinkled with a few words of French. In another neighborhood of the Catalan capital, the same language circulates among the occupants of an apartment, half-office, half-workshop.
These two places, small Senegalese parentheses in the heart of Barcelona, are the headquarters of the Popular Union of Street Vendors (Sindicato Popular de Vendedores Ambulantes in Spanish) and the Diomcoop cooperative, respectively. Two complementary projects seek to facilitate the regularization of the migrant community who live without papers in the city under an immigration law that they consider abusive.
Anyone who has visited Barcelona will remember a common scene of the pre-Covid era: wide streets, crowded like rivers of noisy tourists and, on their banks, blankets spread on the ground, covered with products: small ephemeral shops, mostly run by sub-Saharan migrants. Colloquially called manteros (from the Spanish word for blanket, manta), many of these street vendors live without a residence or work permit and their only way forward is to sell on the street.