New York city streets are opened for the Latin American culture through the books industry.
New York is a city with more than 8 million inhabitants, the most populated city in the United States and the second one in the American country after Mexico city.
Since the 19th century, it has been one of the main worldwide economic, politic, education, art and fashion centers.
What is kind of crazy, is the fact the even thought 2 millions of the total population are Spanish speakers bookstores offering Spanish material ,as a way of culture recognition, are present in a dwindling number.
La Casa Azul, one of the biggest ones is currently closed and the multi-lingual offered at Word Up is still a good option but aside from that, it is quite hard to find places that fit with the needs of Spanish speakers
Fortunately, currently the “Donceles” bookstore and the “Librería Barco de Papel” are trying to change the situation.
These two, are the only bookstores exclusively dedicated to providing Spanish language books and Spanish language used books.
Pablo Helguera, the “Donceles” bookstore owner and creator, says: “As a Latino immigrant in the United States, one of the things that happens when you leave your country is this yearning for absorbing culture or finding anything that could restore the things you feel are missing. Books for me have that quality, the fact that I could just buy or bring my books and continue reading them and thus, feel still connected to the culture.”
The traditional bookstore organization by categories goes from: Arts and Science, to Economics and Politics, Law and some others. At “Donceles”, the Mexican artist bookstore organization is very creative and has kind funny tags, like “Libros Cursis,” “Libros Amorosamente Forrados” or “Teoría Dudosa.
“The idea is that, as an artist, you always want to create that which doesn’t exist and bring it into the world,” Pablo expresses.
On the other side, the second one, the “Librería Barco de Papel” located in Queens and surrounded by the everyday life chaos first catches the attention with the mural of Gabriel García Márquez.
Ramón Caraballo is the owner, he opened the bookstore back in 2003. after years of saving money as a sidewalk bookseller
He often asks the customers: “What is culture?”
A question that has not found its answer. Nonetheless, the importance of these stores is that they work as cultural centers dedicated to celebrating the traditions, literary and otherwise, of Latin America.
Both bookstores offer literature that goes from the medieval times until today. Additionally, many events are scheduled to reinforce the idea of spreading the Latin American culture.
For instance, last year events included talks and readings with an Argentine illustrator, a Cuban troubadour and two Peruvian writers.
Music is also a protagonist in these events, in aims of reconnecting the Latin American people, living in New York, to their roots, the one they refuse to lose.
Hernando Cuervo is 65 years-old-man from Colombia. He is a taxi driver and regular customer at the bookstore
“Here, people come to work and produce and forget where they come from, it’s very important for people, to have the opportunity to reconnect with their roots.
Lastly, mister Caraballo expressed how he feels like the last Mohican in New York city.
These two men are trying to make the bookshelves in New York speak Spanish again. This is the opportunity to show the richness and the cultural values of the Latin American countries, to keep it alive in a city where almost 170 languages are spoken and where the 36% of the population was not born in the U.S.