The group of local young people from the SSEds4youth project in Barcelona visited the Top Manta space in March. During the visit, they interviewed Lamine Bathily, spokesman for the Mantero Union.
The origins of the Mantero Union date back to the summer of 2015, the Manteros fed up with the police persecution decided to organize themselves to face the situation. They joined forces to say enough to the injustice they lived at that time and continue to suffer today: a racist institutional policy that prevents them from working if they do not have proper documentation and that leads them to dedicate themselves to the blanket in the street.
The situation was unsustainable, as the Mantera community has always received attacks from various fronts: from stigmatization by the media, to xenophobia in agriculture or social rejection. A struggle that crystallized with the creation of the Mantero Union, that same year, to defend the rights of the Manteros to have a dignified life and if their situation can be regularized. From 2017, the Top Manta brand was born, defending the idea that Mantero can legally sell clothes that value all their demands (anti-racism, Africanism, decolonialism …). At the same time they have the ability to change the lives of the maximum number of migrants who sell on the street, offering them suitable working conditions.
The Top Manta journey has sailed through all kinds of seas, finding waves of peace and good currents in moments like the inauguration of the store in the heart of the Raval (Carrer d’En Roig, 13) or the recent growth with the launch of online commerce. Unfortunately the speculation of our city has meant for the Mantero Union to sail through strong tides, the recent eviction of the Immigrant Space expelling the sewing workshop together with other initiatives such as the Migrant Conch, define the difficulties they have suffered in recent years.
Fortunately, the strength and claims of the Manteros go on. Their workshop is currently being installed in the Casa de la Solidaritat, waiting for the workshop being built by Barcelona City Council in Can Batlló to be ready. Currently 24 people work in the Union, the vast majority of them from Senegal, who create clothes 100% Made in Barcelona due the whole process of cutting and making being done in the workshop. Many of the seamstresses who work at Top Manta were already engaged in fashion design in their country. The workshop is not only a place but a sewing room to accommodate all newly arrived African migrants, a place to share and build community, where to learn Spanish and Catalan free, receive legal advice…
From the SSeds group of Nexes we want to thank the generosity of Lamine Bathily, spokesman for the Mantero Union and the rest of the Mantero Union team to open the doors to tell us from the heart this exciting defense of the right to a dignified life for migrants. We encourage people to visit the store and reflect on alternatives in the fashion world, such as Top Manta, that promote social transformation. With the Social and Solidarity Economy another fashion is possible!