Mérida, Yucatán — Mayor Mauricio Vila has gone public with his plea to federal and state authorities to stop the “chiapanecas.”
At issue are street hawkers from Chiapas who approach tourists with goods, mainly colorful textiles, for sale.
Beyond the issue of tourist harassment or competition with licensed tradespeople, Vila Dosal says in an open letter that he suspects the sellers are victims of crimes, caught up in human trafficking or child-abuse networks, way beyond the scope of municipal authorities.
The mayor said that previous requests to investigate the situation have fallen on deaf ears.
Cracking down on the vendors is hampered by “hawks” who serve as lookouts for municipal market inspectors.
The mayor says it’s clear that more arrivals from the impoverished state come during the tourist high season.
But cracking down on the sellers themselves often appears to be victimizing the young women, not protecting them.
Social media reacted harshly when police were caught on camera attempting to stop a Chiapan vendor peddle fabrics on Calle 59. Members of the public intervened, bodily protecting the young woman from authorities.
Moreover, the state Human Rights Commission has asked the city to allow the Chiapas women to continue their activities in the city.
The PRD’s southern councilor, Tonatiuh Villanueva Caltempa, in April asked the public to avoid patronizing Chiapas merchants to break the cycle of exploitation that ultimately enslaves them.
“It is undeniable that there are human trafficking, physical and psychological aggression against them and their children, but it is impossible to intervene because the state Human Rights Commission ensures that they are protected,” he complained.
Chiapas has received nearly US$60 billion from Mexico City, but poverty has only worsened in Mexico’s poorest state. An estimated 86% of its population lives below the food poverty line, according to the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy.