What follows is a series of captioned images that attempts to succinctly describe the complicated relationship between the street vendors in the Bras neighborhood of Sao Paulo and the Ferinha da Madrugada, a market of dubious origins and ongoing, seemingly nefarious, happenings. The images illustrate a typical early morning in the Bras neighborhood, just as illegal street vendors make way for permitted ones and questionable exchanges take place at the Ferinha.

I will note that information shared with me about the Ferinha is, to some degree, speculative, but firmly rooted in a deep and ongoing investigation of the fair and its workings. The speculative nature of the numbers and commentary mentioned in this post is largely due to the elusiveness of the characters at play – presumably murdered union members, internationally notorious mafia leaders, seemingly ill-informed interested corporate investors, as well as the federal and state officials and their seemingly laissez faire approach to the Ferinha’s regulation. Still, these speculations, based on a project out of the Centre Gaspar Garcia of Human Rights called the “Informal Work and the Right to the City,” which is financed by European Union and Christian Aid and lead by researcher Luciana Itikawa, are certainly worthy of being shared, if merely to highlight the ever-complicated informal economy and the many interests involved.


An entrance to the Ferinha da Madrugada. Last fall, Madrugada vendors were expulsed from the shopping center as the federal government investigated the legality of its inner working.  (J. Renteria)


Inside the Ferinha da Madrugada, which begins to operate at 3 in the morning. It is estimated that vendors pay thousands of dollars a month to lease spaces, while street vendors who vend from 3-7 in the morning on adjacent and nearby streets pay hundreds. In both cases, it is unclear who, exactly, is paid. (J. Renteria)


Another view from inside the Ferinha da Madrugada. (J. Renteria)


Non-permitted street vendors hawk from their fragile stands and push their carts through crowds of shoppers along the streets adjacent to the questionably managed Ferinha da Madrugada, whose dubious construction on public land and inconsistently documented sales are speculated to be the work of local and international Chinese mafias that have taken advantage of the Federal and Local governments inability to come to an agreement on who should be managing the former rail yard on which the Ferinha was built. (J. Renteria)


The picture was taken at approximately 6:45 am on a crisp, Tuesday morning in July 2011 and just before the street vendors, having been on the streets since 3 am, would begin to collect their merchandise and depart the area. The Ferinha, held nearly daily from 3 to 7 am, is located in the Bras neighborhood with most of the market’s action taking place along Rua Oriente*. (J. Renteria)


As the clock nears 7am, the street vendors begin to gather their merchandise and prepare to depart the area. It is at 7 am when permitted street vendors will begin to roll out their carts and set themselves up along the same streets and in front of operating brick and mortar shops. (J. Renteria)


At just about 7 am, a large number (approximately 30-40 were visible) of state police officers arrive, nonchalantly walking alongside street vendors as they gather their merchandise. The walk so casually and the vendors hustle so quickly that the entire affair seems like a regular performance. (J. Renteria)


Stranded merchandise wait to be picked up by their owners on the streets adjacent to the Ferinha da Madrugada. (J. Renteria)


The streets are relatively quiet as permitted street vendors (far left) begin to assemble their stands at around 7 am. (J. Renteria)


At a little past 7 am, a city street sweeper (gais) begins to collect trash along the streets adjacent to the Ferinha da Madrugada where street vendors gathered in the early morning hours. (J. Renteria)

Trash remains on the streets after vendors and shoppers have disappeared. (J. Renteria)


Sao Paulo city workers sweep the alleyways adjacent to the Ferinha da Madrugada. (J. Renteria)


Permitted street vendors set up for another day along Rua Oriente*, which is adjacent to the Ferinha da Madrugada and located in the Bras neighborhood. (J. Renteria)


* Correction 20 August, 2012: The post previously incorrectly noted Rua Oscar Friere as the street vendors early morning location.


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