A 2016 New York University study found that book deserts, geographic areas where printed books and other reading materials are difficult to obtain, leave children unprepared to learn when they enter school.
Literacy depends on the availability of books, and lack of access to public libraries or bookstores is not uncommon for low-income communities. The South and West neighborhoods of San Antonio are considered deserts of books, which the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center hopes to remedy with its new Latino Bookstore.
“When we say that the West Side is a desert of books and that it is also a desert of resources of all kinds, as we know it,” explained Guadalupe’s executive director, Cristina Ballí. “But it’s not a cultural desert, for sure.”
The West Side’s predominantly Mexican community is struggling to shake off decades of social and economic injustice, educational inequality, and harmful stereotypes. Local grassroots organizations, including Guadalupe, have turned to the arts as a way to ensure that culture and representation remains vibrant in the community.
The literary curator of the Librairie Latino, Tony diaz, was determined to refine and amplify this rich culture by featuring Texan Latino writers, Chicano scholars, as well as books on Mexican-American studies and other historical icons that are often removed from mainstream narratives or that one not commonly found in popular bookstore chains. He attributes the success of the bookstore to the community-centered approach of Guadalupe.
“There is a huge demand. The stock is flying off the shelves, ”Diaz said. “So if we approach a community in terms of business, we will remain engulfed in deserts of books. If we approach our community, understanding our values, our visions and our needs, we will thrive.
The Latino Bookstore is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. in the historic Progreso building at 1300 Guadalupe St.