Silvia Rothlisberger

Elephant and Castle: come drained, leave charged

Stepping into London’s Elephant and Castle is a teletransportation to a corner in Latin America: the ubiquitous Spanish, the flavours, the rhythms of the area are made of bachata, bolero, cumbia, salsa, vallenato. In no other place in London have I seen street vendors but here, walking around the two roundabouts that form the Elephant and Castle offering home-made cheese, the lottery, or bracelets with the colours of the Colombian flag. From the first time I went to Elephant and Castle I felt a sense of belonging not only to the area but oddly, for the first time, to London.

To me, Elephant and Castle means the beginning of long-lasting friendships, Colombian-style frijoles in Leños y Carbon, a haircut at Sebastian’s Hair & Beauty, fresh pan de bono with passionfruit juice in Elephant Mall, Cocosettes in La Bodeguita Café, filling my cravings for Colombian food during pregnancy, screening films in Tiendas del Sur and Distriandina, birthday celebrations to the rhythms of salsa and aguardiente in Bola 8, a documentary called London’s Latin Quarter, a workshop in participatory photography and video called My Latin Elephant, an afternoon in the shopping centre with Migrants Contribute, seeing Manu Chao and Vetusta Morla live at the Coronet, long conversations in Spanish with coffee, stocking up with maize flour to cook arepas at home.

Elephant and Castle gives me a sense of meaning thanks to all the memories and associations I have planted there over the years and it is a place that gives me the opportunity to connect my London-born sons to their Latin American roots.