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Invisible men for careless lovers

March 24, 2010

What: the smallest floral business

Who: street vendors of roses

Where: Milan

When: from 20 pm to late night

Why: to survive

The unauthorized sale of roses in Italian cities is an “ethnic” phenomenon of the latest years. The trade is run by people from Bangladesh, who invented this clever “business of survival”. The sellers are hundreds and no one has properly “a vocation”: they need this job because they haven’t got the residence permit, or they have just arrived in Italy. To sell a rose, they don’t need to know our language or to have any contract. They haven’t got any organization, but their motto seems to be: “To everyone his own money”. The roses, hence, are the perfect “waiting room”, before the documents and a real job.

In Italy, the most part of people from Bangladesh lives in Rome, Vicenza, Venezia and Milan, and each of them comes from a different region of their homeland. Who lives in Milan, comes from the district of  Madaripur; from the capital, Dhaka, they arrive to Vicenza; in Rome, they come from Shariatpur, Dhaka and Comilla. The street vendors of roses are the “invisible” part of this community, (which officially counts 41.631 people regularly residents), and, without any documents, they don’t exist statistically, although they are the most evident part, living  most of their life on the street.

They strive to sell them to absent-minded lovers at restaurants, at corners, while walking or just chatting, often with NO results: NO consideration, NO sales, NO money.

What about the income? The vendors buy the roses during the morning at the general markets of flowers: a bunch of  20 roses could costs from 8 € to 20 €, in periods as the Christmas time. They manage to sell each of them for 2-3 €, but often also for just 1 €. The result: few on Mondays, a little bit better in the week-ends; a maximum of 20 € per night, enough to survive, not to live, neither to reach their family, so far away from Italy. However, it’s not even said that they manage to sell.

But they still have a dream: a stall. At Comune di Milano 277 fiorists are registered: among them, 33 are foreigners and 23, almost the 10% of the total number, come from Bangladesh.  Really slowly, these street vendors take over a kiosk and finally can sell flowers as stallholders. The market price of a kiosk depends on several elements: position within the city, pedestrian crossing, proximity to a lighter. In Milan, kiosks in the suburbs cost around 20-25.000 €, while near cemeteries or in the centre they overpass 100.000 €. Till now, obviously, people from Bangladesh are buying those ones in the suburbs.

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