London has become a synonym for diversity, you can grab the bus and hear all types of different languages. People from Asia, Africa, Middle East and Latin America migrate to this city looking for the opportunities this metropolis could provide. Nonetheless, living in a foreign country, in this case, the United Kingdom, implies for many an abrupt change of culture, costumes, currency and sometimes even language. These changes are never easy to get used to. Immigrants tend to find ways to keep their culture alive, and it is common to see immigrants concentrated in neighborhoods that sometimes emulate the architecture and the idiosyncrasy of their countries.
These neighborhoods or spaces are a way of resilience but are not always welcomed by the host communities. Sometimes the immigrant communities are criticised for their way of living, food, way of dressing, and many other traditions.
This is the case of the Latin American community in London. They have consolidated a strong network and community in what is now called “Latin village”. It is essentially a market where Latinos from different countries, especially Colombia, have their hair salons, offer their food, listen to their music, and reunite with expats. The place is actually called “Seven Sisters market” but is locally known as the Latin Village, because the Latin community found in this place a hub to offer their services and be themselves. Nonetheless, a gentrification plan to build 190 flats has been approved by the city. This would mean the displacement of a poor and ethnically diverse community historically excluded, and the end of “the only surviving Latin cultural hub” (Gayle, 2021).
Locals and foreigners have created groups to fight this gentrification plan, they are called “Save Latin Village” and they are concerned about the end of a cultural and traditional space for migrants, moreover, they claim the traders have been suffering from the pandemic and some of them had to close their businesses.
This is not the first case of gentrification, in September of 2020 the “Elephant and Castle” market was demolished, this place was another iconic hub for Latin Americans in London, and in the United Kingdom since many traveled from smaller cities looking for their traditional groceries available only in this place. This meant the closure of many businesses that were also a meeting point for immigrant communities.
Now that the Elephant and Castle market is gone the Latin Village is the only hub left for the Latinamerican community in the city, this is special for the products or services, but more importantly for the bonds that have emerged in this place, for many immigrants, this is a connection to their countries. Forcing the closure of immigrants’ businesses is a loss not only for the owners but for all the people that find in these places a little piece of their homes, and it is also a statement of the country’s hostile environment policy against migrants.
This is saying to immigrants that they do not have the right to have a hub, that their idiosyncrasy is not considered aesthetically acceptable for the city and it must change. This is leaving many people without a sense of belonging, which could cause resentment against the country.
Instead, the city should embrace and honour its diversity, this is something that remarks London and that is appreciated by many. Immigrant hubs are not a thread or something that must be aesthetically improved, they are a demonstration of communities’ resilience and a showcase to other cultures.
Gayle, D. (2021). Plans for 190 flats on the London Latin Village site were scrapped after protests. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/aug/07/plans-for-190-flats-on-london-latin-village-site-scrapped-after-protests