Latin Elephant, a non-profit organisation, represents the interests of the Latino and other communities of colour in urban regeneration processes in South London. Its work over the years has been persistent and arduous and has significant achievements.
Registered with the Charity Commission in 2014, it arose out of a need to advise around 100 small business owners and entrepreneurs in the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre. The aim was to help them retain their businesses, due to the direct threat of gentrification of the ‘Latin Quarter’ and commercial displacement caused by a £2 billion mega-project to build luxury flats by developer Delancey in conjunction with Southwark Council.
For over six years Latin Elephant organised free advisory workshops, built a network of local partner organisations to strengthen the collective position of small traders, and represented small traders to the Southwark Planning Committee and to Sadiq Khan’s London Mayor’s Office. In addition, Latin Elephant made visible to Latino, British and international media the possible expulsion of traders, organised art exhibitions at Tate Modern, South London Gallery and other cultural institutions, participated in several documentaries and wrote newspaper articles to lead a campaign advocating for an inclusive development, i.e. one that would take into account all small traders in the new ‘Elephant Town Centre’ proposed by the developers.
After several years of campaigning, on 24 September 2020 the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre closed its doors for demolition after 55 years of existence.
However, thanks to Latin Elephant’s hard work with the community, positive results were achieved for the Latin American diaspora. Indeed, close to 100% of the Latino traders directly affected managed to stay in the initial phase of relocation, placing them in three new sites less than 3 minutes away from the Shopping Centre.
For those traders who were not offered relocation, Latin Elephant continued to work – alongside an architect, lawyers, members of the Mayor of London and Southwark councillors – to advocate for the rights of those displaced from their businesses.
Despite Southwark’s approval of the development, Latin Elephant continues to advocate for the rights of the traders because they are an essential part of the Elephant community, which was established decades ago and is recognised in London and in England as the “Latin Quarter”. Neither the developers, the Council, nor the Mayor of London can ignore a community as recognised, multicultural and established as Elephant and Castle. To this end, for the past two years, Latin Elephant has been organising a series of guided tours, open and free to the public, in which they share the history of the area and the community and promote Latin American cuisine and the wide range of small businesses.
They do it with the already well-known ‘The Elephant walking tour’.
Since the end of 2020, Elephant has lost the shopping centre, a vital space for the Latino community. However, Latin Elephant’s goals have not only not changed, but it has redoubled its efforts to continue to represent the affected communities.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, the organisation did a lot of one-on-one advocacy and document translation work to help with the difficulties traders faced in accessing government benefits and business grants that were available.
It also doubled its efforts to strengthen its funding streams, securing new and larger grants to expand its staff. It now employs six part-time staff and has a team of 10 volunteers and a four-member board of directors, who meet regularly to think about the organisation’s long-term strategy.
The impact of Latin Elephant has been very significant, as since its foundation it has led one of the largest anti-gentrification campaigns in London, representing more than 150 small businesses and hundreds of beneficiaries of its services, all free of charge, from workshops, training, advocacy, legal representation, visibility through community murals in Elephant, participation in cultural, artistic and political events. In addition, for the last 10 years, it has been working in collaboration with other organisations that are part of the Coalition of Latin Americans in the UK (Clauk), offering welfare services for the Latino community.
In the coming years, Latin Elephant’s goal remains to represent and promote the visibility of the Latino community in Elephant and Castle and to continue to work towards the recognition of the Latin Quarter as the heart of the Latino community in London and the UK.
(Translated by Cristina Popa – Email: email@example.com)
Special Edition – CLAUK 10 Years
- 10 years of CLAUK: feeling, living and supporting Latino migrants
- Pioneers in defence of London’s Latin Quarter
- A house open to immigrants
- For a world free of violence against women and children
- Pioneering journalism by and for migrants
- A shared history of enduring solidarity
- Supporting Latin Americans in the North West
- Caring for the emotional health of the diaspora