Uplifting voices from the streets of Mexico City

Man holding street paper in Mexico City

Photo credit: Arturo Soto/Mi Valedor

  • INSP Impact
Mi Valedor cover

Each year, through the INSP News Service, we write, edit and translate hundreds of articles for distribution to street papers around the world. The Service supports street papers to go to print, enabling people in need to earn an income and independent media to thrive.

One of the organisations that benefits from the Service is Mi Valedor in Mexico City. With a staff and volunteer team of 15 people, the organisation is amongst the smallest in our network but has an important presence in a country where it is estimated that up to 44% of the population live below the poverty line.

Arturo Soto is a documentary photographer with Mi Valedor. He explains:

“Mexico City, specifically the downtown area, has a large concentration of homeless people. In addition, the economic situation is precarious and a good part of the population survives on a day-to-day basis. It is necessary to have an additional source of income, as well as support programs that promote a successful social and labour reinsertion.”

Against a bleak economic and social outlook, Mi Valedor is producing a high-quality magazine that people in need can sell, and readers enjoy. The magazine’s editorial team have embraced the diversity of its surroundings, “documenting the wonder of a beautiful, alive city, full of contradictions,” says Soto. The result is a bimonthly publication with local stories, global news and vibrant street photography, often taken by vendors. 

Providing the global view

However, like many street papers in our network and print publications in general, the magazine has been affected by rising prices and a rapidly changing media landscape. Producing the magazine is getting more expensive and businesses are pulling back on advertising to reduce their own costs.

In these difficult times, being a member of INSP, and having access to the News Service, is even more important for Mi Valedor. Soto credits the INSP News Service with providing a unique global overview of poverty and homelessness that can’t be found elsewhere:

“Thanks to the information we have shared from the INSP News Service, readers can learn about stories that need to be told.” 

Arturo Soto, a photojournalist with Mi Valedor, sitting at his desk

Arturo Soto is a documentary photographer with Mi Valedor.

Uplifting voices from the streets of Mexico City

While Mi Valedor’s readers get stories from other cities around the world, the News Service is also sharing unheard voices from Mexico City’s streets. This was the case earlier this year with a story about the city's homeless populations protesting the municipal government’s anti-homelessness laws. The story was submitted to the INSP News Service, translated into English thanks to our volunteers, and shared on our international platforms. Soto stressed the importance of the story being profiled by our network: 

“For us, it was necessary for more people to know that in our city there is a constant struggle for the rights of those living on the streets, who are affected by the social cleansing policies of our government.”
A man holds up a sign "Las personas de la calle tambien tenemos derechos"

Homeless populations took to the streets to protest anti-homelessness laws. Image credit: Erendira Aquino Ayala (@ere_aquino)

Helping people earn money

For the people who sell Mi Valedor, there is also an immediate impact of the INSP News Service. As with all street papers, vendors sell Mi Valedor at a profit and keep the proceeds. The money is often used to buy essential items such as food. In this regard, getting the magazine to print is a critical exercise that the INSP News Service supports.

Soto told us that people sell the magazine for a range of reasons. They may be experiencing homelessness or a low income, have migrated from another country and/or face discrimination on the streets. The common thread is some form of exclusion from society that Mi Valedor helps to combat through community support and opportunities. Being part of INSP extends this community to an international level. Vendors report being proud to sell a magazine with INSP content and being part of a network with a common purpose.

A man in a red vest sells a street paper to a passerby

A man buys Mi Valedor street paper from a vendor in Mexico City. Image credit: Arturo Soto/ Mi Valedor

Supporting independent journalism

Mexico, like many other countries, has not been immune to the effects of digitalisation and changes in the way we consume news. Soto explains that there are few “media [outlets] in Mexico that have a social purpose” and instead, media is often driven by clickbait and repetitive content. In this context, Mi Valedor seeks to create a magazine that can be a space to listen to the voices of those who have been left behind. 

Finally, the INSP News Service also benefits Mi Valedor’s staff – the editors, social workers and people managing the project. Many are volunteers. All are driven by social justice. When we asked why he decided to work for a street paper, Soto said:

“In my work as photo editor of the magazine, I want to promote the voices of those who live in precarious areas or in the peripheries of the city. Likewise, I am interested in sharing what our vendors think, how they live and, above all, in telling their stories in a dignified and respectful way.”

We need your help to keep supporting street papers like Mi Valedor. Donate today.

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