In London’s “Little Colombia”, the area that fought to survive and won for 15 years

If you had traveled to Seven Sisters on the Victoria Line before March 2020, you might have felt like you left London completely.

Affectionately known as “Little Colombia,” the Latin Village is usually a swarm of salsa beats, with delicious scents of tamales and empanadas wafting around every corner, and neighbors calling each other in Spanish.

Nicknamed London’s United Nations for its diversity, the market is the culinary and cultural hub of an area made up largely of South American migrants.

READ MORE: ‘We charge £2 for a coffee and they charge £4.50’: Hackney shops survive gentrification

The Latin Village is often referred to as London’s United Nations due to the diverse community that lives here

Times are tough due to the pandemic as many shops, restaurants and stalls are still closed.

But the past two years are nothing compared to the community’s 15-year battle against market destruction, which it appears to have won.

Nicholas Amayo was part of the fight to stop the destruction of the market. He is also vice president of the Seven Sisters Market tenants’ association, which helps relocate tenants in the area.

He told MyLondon: “It’s been a long fight. It was good news that the developer finally decided to retire, partly due to the campaign we waged against them.

“This has been an ongoing battle for many years … that we simply do not accept their proposed vision of redeveloping the Seven Sisters market.”

Nicholas Amayo was part of the 15-year struggle to save the village

The market had fallen victim to years of decline and underinvestment, leading Haringey Council to earmark the Latin Village for redevelopment in 2002. Two years later, Grainger PLC was awarded the contract to demolish the site and redesign it with 196 new apartments.

When Grainger announced in August 2021 that he would not be moving forward with the plans, the community celebrated.

What is clear is that August’s victory was just the beginning for this community, who have continued to advance their own vision, the “Community Plan”.

preservation of culture

A new plan was put in place to preserve the region’s culture

The plan envisages the community-led development of the Wards Corner Building and the Seven Sisters Mark under four main principles: self-government, affordable rent, new community space and reinvestment.

If the plan were to go ahead, the building would be restored and managed by market traders and the local community. New social spaces would be created with inexpensive office space and the profits generated on the market would be reinvested in the building.

The plan received planning permission in 2019 and is supported by Haringey Council.

A woman walks past a giant work of art near the Latin Village

Ben Beach, an architectural designer working with the builders’ cooperative Unit 38 on the plan, stressed the importance of community-led urban development happening throughout the capital.

He told MyLondon: “The city is losing its cultural fabric, thousands of cultural sites that have closed or are at risk of closing… the need to provide spaces for our culture to exist is more important than ever in the wake of the pandemic.

“Rather than maximizing value for distant shareholders, the community plan acts as a catalyst for community wealth creation.”

A friendly, open community

Cem Kaplan, who is from Turkey and owns Café Lemon around the corner from Seven Sisters Market

According to Ben, the idea of ​​community-led development is well supported by traders in the market and by the wider community.

Cem Kaplan, who is from Turkey and owns Cafe Lemon around the corner from Seven Sisters Market, said he has followed community activism and would like to get involved in the future to help in any way he can.

For him, diversity is what defines the area.

He told MyLondon: “It’s a friendly and open community shared by everyone. It’s a mix of different types of groups.”

He said he’s proud to live in such a diverse community and hopes the area stays that way in the future.

life after covid

Patrick Rey is a trader who has joined the fight to save the community

Due to the high number of traders who are still unable to return to work due to the pandemic, the council has expressed its support to get the village up and running again.

Peray Ahmet, the leader of the Haringey Council, told the Guardian: “We are extremely concerned by the plight of traders who have been unable to trade since March 2020. Our immediate priority is to hear from TfL about their plans for a temporary market and most importantly when it will be operational.

“While TfL’s hardship fund payments to traders have been a welcome intervention, we also need to understand their proposals and timelines to continue this much-needed financial support.”

Despite the support, uncertainty remains and not just because of Covid.

Nicholas noted that Transport for London, the owner of the property, still has significant work to do on the buildings to bring it up to date.

Even with the support of Haringey Council, the future is unclear.

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Nicholas said: “What that support actually means we’ll have to wait and see. Having the Council on board is good because before that the Council wasn’t with us at all.

“But there’s an election coming up again, so you could have a side that’s sympathetic and then maybe with a leadership change, we could go back to where we were.”

Ultimately, it is clear that this campaign has always been about people and will continue to be about it.

Patrick Rey, who works at the market as a money changer, told MyLondon: “It started as a fight to save the market but it turned out to be a fight for value as a human being.

“To be known as Patrick – not just as a trader, not just as someone who operates in the market, but as a person.”

The future of the Latin Village may still be unclear, but one thing is certain – they won’t be giving up anytime soon.

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