The displacement of street vending activities from the streets of Mexico City is nothing new. It´s a practice exercised by city authorities that date back to the XVIII, and arguably the XVII century. This paper provides an account of the multiple ways in which street vendors´ removal has been carried out and justified by urban authorities in different moments in the history of the city. Special attention will be placed on four key dimensions of such efforts, which include: normative rationalities, imaginaries, practices, and spatial references constructed around these activities during key historic moments in the political life of the city. Through a historical perspective, the objective of the paper is to shed light on the seemingly new ways in which contemporary beautification policies implicated around the politics of the street unfold. A historical account of the different ways in which the displacement of street vending activities have been made legitimate by urban authorities and struggled over is important to shed light on contemporary practices of displacement and current normative visions of the street. Historically, while urban authorities efforts to remove street vendors from the city´s public spaces might seem to be carried out in similar ways, it is important to look at the different rationalities, imaginaries and practices underlying these efforts. Such differences might shed light on the significance of the street – as one of the most emblematic forms of what might be defined as public – in contemporary urban politics. As its empirical departure point, this paper draws on recent widespread efforts to clear and “clean” the streets of Mexico City´s historic center as an avenue to understand the material and symbolic practices which have historically shaped the governance of the street in colonial and postcolonial Mexico, particularly through the re-organization and management of street vending activities.

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