Itinerant Spanish Bookstore Encourages Cultural Understanding
Socially engaged art project "libreria donceles" comes to anchorage
May 04, 2018
Photo and video courtesy of the artist
By Francesca DuBrock, Anchorage Museum Curator
New York-based artist and educator Pablo Helguera finds it remarkable that there is a scarcity of books available in Spanish despite the millions of Spanish speakers in the United States. In response, he created Librería Donceles, an itinerant bookstore/meeting space carrying more than 10,000 books in Spanish.
Named for the historic street of used booksellers in Mexico City, Helguera’s Librería premiered in Brooklyn, NY, in 2013. Since then, it has traveled to Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Indianapolis and Boston. In each city, it has been the sole Spanish-language bookstore.
Relevant to Anchorage where 90+ languages are spoken
This fall and winter, it comes to Anchorage when the Anchorage Museum hosts Librería Donceles at a location near the museum campus. The installation will also function as a community meeting place hosting bilingual conversations, performances, and workshops designed to encourage cultural understanding.
Although the books within it are Spanish-language specific, Librería Donceles reflects on issues pertinent to all people who speak languages other than English: access, equity and inclusion. This is particularly meaningful within our community wherein approximately 99 languages are spoken in our public schools. Anchorage is infused with a deep linguistic richness, ripe for understanding, nurturing and celebrating both within and beyond this project.
Literacy means more than knowing how to read
The Museum is interested in the idea of literacy as encompassing not only reading and writing, but also a battery of skills that enable meaningful participation in society and in life. Literacy is a tool for “transcending the given” – synthesizing, questioning, and responding to situations or ideas that matter. Librería Donceles provides a platform for doing just that by offering a space where teaching and learning can occur, where different narratives about our city can be explored, and where people can connect, relax and enjoy each other’s company.