Meet the Enterprising Ecuadorian Street Vendors...of Istanbul
After traveling seven thousand miles to sell their wares, the indigenous Otavalo people have gotten used to turf wars, tussles with Turkish police, and even the occasional military coup.
Photos by Jen Ciochon
It’s midnight on a humid Friday in mid-July. Twenty-three-year-old Maribel Romero, a street vendor from Ecuador, lingers as a stream of passersby stroll into Istanbul’s sprawling Taksim Square. Police warned her against working here days earlier, but there’s no better sidewalk around on which to plant a blanket and spread out her merchandise. Before curating the bags, key chains, fruit bowls, wind chimes, and handmade bracelets, she’d scurried away from teargas and Turkish military forces attempting a coup to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “I saw all the people running my way and was happy because I would sell a lot,” recounts Maribel. “But then I saw they were crying, and I also started to run.”
Maribel (who wished not to be photographed for this story) and her older sister Silvia, who Maribel says is like a second mother to her, are both stout and under 4’9” tall. They are indigenous to Otavalo.