––– Our journey starts in Senegal, a country hobbled by centuries of slavery and spoliation. Most of our families have occupations related to fishing, but the agreements between the government of Senegal and other countries and multinational foreign fisheries, amongst them Spanish companies, left our seas without fish and eliminated any possibility of livelihood.

The handmade canoe (cayuco) we used for fishing takes us now to the place where they steal our fish and our resources.

The ones telling this story are the people who got to reach Europe, but many brothers and sisters lost their lives in the sea, the desert or at the Ceuta and Melilla border fence.

––– Our arrival in Spain has been marked by institutional racism and the Law on foreigners. Most of us are deported as soon as we step a foot into European soil, others spend weeks in a CIE (Spanish jails exclusive for migrants) until they decide if we are to be deported or left in the streets.

The ones who are released face the poverty and exclusion that the Law on foreigners is condemning us to. According to this law we must remain in Spain for three years before we can get a work and residence permit. During these years we are forced to survive the best we can, having always the fear of being detained, mistreated, locked or deported. The blanket, we use to sell in the street, is our only alternative to survive while we cannot have the permits.

In 2015, a group of two hundred street vendors of Barcelona got together and created the Union of Street Vendors of Barcelona to have our own voice, defend our rights and negotiate with the authorities.

––– We launched our social and solidarity brand Top Manta, a screen printing workshop and a sewing workshop in order to improve our living conditions, get our colleagues off the street and create communication campaigns where we could explain the injustices of the fake system in which we live in.

TODAY

––– Top Manta has become a social and political agent with an important role in the city of Barcelona and with different ways of involvement. Thanks to our non-profit association we have been able to regularize the living situation of many of our colleagues.

The system still sees us as illegal people, but we have no time to waste, that’s why we have just created the Cooperativa Popular de Vendedores Ambulantes(Popular Street Vendors Cooperative), from where we can continue to take more people off the street and offer them and alternative way of life.

¿What are the benefits used for?

The benefits of Top Manta are used to improve the living conditions of the vendors’ collective. Our goal is to take our colleagues off the street and offer them an alternative of a decent life.

Since we started the Union, more than 120 people have been able to regularize their situation thanks to the solidarity network.

Nowadays, the association offers professional textile training workshops and language classes. Furthermore it has two different workshops, a sewing one and another of screen printing, where more than 25 people make the products of Top Manta and other external orders.

Top Manta is registered as a non-profit association under the name of Associació Popular de Venedors Ambulants de Barcelona and now as a Cooperative as well, using the same name.

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The sneakers are manufactured in small local handicraft shoe workshops. We know the traceability of each piece: the origin of the materials and the name of the people participating in the manufacturing process.

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