In November 2019, Save Latin Village attended the 12th session of the United Nations Forum on Minority Issues, which focused on the theme of Education and Language. We delivered a statement to the Forum about the value of Latin Village to London’s Latinx population, with three recommendations.
The United Nations first became involved with the Save Latin Village campaign in 2017, when they issued a public statement intervening in the CPO of the Ward’s Corner site, and we have continued to engage with their annual Forum on Minority Issues. The theme of this year’s forum asserts that the rights of linguistic minorities are human rights that must be respected (including in relation to the appropriate degree of use of minority languages) and that education in minority languages is fundamental for the protection and promotion of cultural and linguistic diversity and of the human rights of persons belonging to minorities. This is highly relevant both for London’s Spanish-speaking Latinx population, as well as for the Save Latin Village campaign.
In relation to the agenda item ‘Language, education and the empowerment of minority women and girls’ we highlighted the story of two women and the impact that the Latin Village has had on their lives:
Victoria came to the UK from Colombia as a young woman, a refugee, and single mother. The Latin Village enabled her to work to support herself and her daughter, Stefania. She has been a market trader for 18 years and currently runs a beauty salon and money transfer service. As a young girl, Stefania was able to become fluent in Spanish as well as acquire a strong sense of her Colombian identity through being immersed in her culture. She is now a confident lawyer, planning to apply for the 2020 UN minorities fellowship.
This is just one of many similar cases exemplifying the sense of community and empowerment the Latin Village provides. We were able to refer to expert statements from NGOs and academics, such as the following from Minority Rights Group International and Prof. Alexandra Xanthaki:
“[The Latin Village] is a safe space where Latin American children can share their culture, feel proud of their heritage, practice Spanish among their peers, and build confidence. Spanish is not only a link to their ethnic and cultural identity; it is also among the most widely spoken languages in the world and will provide them with professional and life opportunities that will enable them to succeed in the future”.
The issue of language was also covered in the report ‘No Longer Invisible: the Latin American community in London’ by Prof. Cathy McIlwaine of King’s College London. This report found that about 85 percent of Latin Americans engage with their culture at the Latin Village and the Latin Quarter.
A recent article from Al Jazeera also highlighted the risks posed to the cultural life from the planned simultaneous demolition of Latin Village and the Latin Quarter in South London, effectively removing the two largest Latinx cultural centres in the UK.
To preserve the Latin Village for future generations, our recommendations to the Forum included:
- The UK government and the Mayor of London should respect the rights of Save Latin Village and our sister campaign, Latin Elephant, to effectively participate in shaping the future of our community
This includes providing equal support, including financial support, for the Ward’s Corner Community Plan, our proposal for a community-led development of the Latin Village. Our plan would avoid the demolition of the historic Wards Corner Building and enhance the extensive cultural value provided by the indoor market, as well as providing additional shared community spaces. The Community Plan was recently granted planning permission in November 2019.
The UK government and the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination should investigate why complaints of hate crime, discrimination, and illegal evictions of ethnic minority residents in relation to this development, have not been properly addressed by the Mayor of London.
These concerns were heard by the local government’s Housing and Regeneration Scrutiny Panel, and highlighted in the most recent Scrutiny Report. The recommendations from this report should be implemented, and the findings should be investigated by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.
- Finally, the government and the Committee of the Rights of the Child should investigate the violations of the child rights convention
As asserted to the Forum, this is critical to ensure that children dependent on the Latin Village can continue to enjoy their rights under the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
The Latin Village is a great example of womens’ empowerment, and a vital resource for first and second generation Latin Americans in the UK. We will continue to push for these recommendations to be implemented, in order to preserve it for future generations, and we are grateful to the United Nations for the opportunity to discuss the campaign at the Forum on Minority Issues.
(This article was written by Camila Tobias)