A love letter to North London’s Latin village

A love letter to North London’s Latin village
Photographer Silvana Trevale and stylist Daniela Benaim capture the heart and soul of Seven Sisters indoor market, which stood for years as a bustling hub and vital resource for the area’s Latinx community – until property developers swept in.

One day in early 2020, photographer Silvana Trevale and stylist Daniela Benaim took a trip northward on London Underground’s Victoria Line, to meet a woman named Victoria Álvarez. Greeting the pair at Seven Sisters, Álvarez was showing the pair around the local market – the Latin Village, a bustling hub and vital resource for the area’s Latinx community since the 1990s.

As they entered via the main façade, they were greeted with the sounds of salsa and merengue music, and the familiar scents of frijoles, arepas and caldo de pollo. Álvarez, a local legend, trader and champion of the market, began introducing them to the various shopkeepers and regulars, who were milling around the mercado doing their daily shopping.

Photography by Silvana Trevale with styling by Daniela Benaim

“It was hectic, there’s always something going on – there’s always music, someone with a microphone preaching,” Trevale says. “But then you go to the shops and you see these beautiful people, they’re so generous and so welcoming to you. It was kind of like a glimpse of home.”

Both Trevale and Benaim grew up in Venezuela and are now based in London. They had been commissioned by British Vogue to photograph the market’s people and tight-knit community, which is now captured in their series Pueblito Paisa. After hearing it was under threat from permanent closure – an all too familiar story of developers earmarking the site for luxury flats – the duo felt compelled to do something, anything to bring some attention to the fight to save it.

“We heard the news that the [Latin market] in Elephant and Castle was being shut [in 2019], and then we heard the other one in Seven Sisters was going to shut and we were like, ‘what the hell?’” Trevale says. “We were super angry, and that’s when me and Daniela thought: we have to do something about this.”

From old friends perched in store on a tiny table sipping on bottled beer, to the mercado barber preparing to give a customer a shape-up, the pictures from Pueblito Paisa are a joyous ode to Seven Sisters’ Latinx community and the people at the heart of its market.

On top of the everyday moments, Trevale and Benaim also wanted to celebrate the Latin culture that is so important – not just to the people in their photographs, but to their own identities. One photo depicts a young girl outside the front of the market, donning an elaborate tiara crafted out of flowers and a sash emblazoned with: “Reina Pueblito Paisa”, or, “Queen of Latin Village.”

“We wanted to touch upon the beauty pageants that are super big in Latin America, and especially Venezuela,” says Trevale. “We wanted to celebrate this little girl, and the idea of the most beautiful girl in the market – which is not true, there are so many beautiful girls – but we wanted to take this folklore, these traditions that we have in our country and bring it to London.”

Property developer Grainger PLC has since withdrawn permanently from the site. It seemed like a victory, but the market has remained closed since the first pandemic lockdown in March 2020. Electrical issues have since led to a need to renovate certain sections, with Transport for London (TfL) announcing a relocation of the market to a temporary space. That space is still yet to materialise.

“It’s still shut, there’s still issues. TfL’s promising things that it’s not doing and it’s really frustrating,” Trevale says. “This market is literally the hub for so many people that are coming to the UK. You leave your home, your nest, your family, your comfort zone and you arrive to this huge city. And London can be terrifying, because it’s so big, there’s so many people and it’s such a powerful city.

“The market is a sanctuary,” she adds. “it’s familiar, and it makes the transition a little bit easier when you have people who have gone through the same thing as you. It’s a safe space for so many of us.”

All photos taken by Silvana Trevale with styling by Daniela Benaim.

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