New Latin bookstore aims to end West Side’s book desert

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The West Side of San Antonio is weeks away from the start of a new chapter that will link Latin literature to the community when the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC) Bookstore opens.

The 3,000-square-foot Latino Bookstore opens in the former Progreso Pharmacy on October 1 with an inventory valued at $ 20,000 on its shelves. Customers will be able to browse and purchase literature written by Texan Latino authors with a focus on Mexican-American studies and Chicano scholars and icons. Works for children are also included.

CCGA executive director Cristina Balli said the store would quench the desert of books that has plagued the region for generations. Mapping of San Antonio bookstores shows that the west and south sides are devoid of books. The future of South Side’s only store, Dead Tree Books, remains in limbo after owners Kenny and Melissa Johnson revealed in July that the business is struggling to survive at the current location.

“It’s economical. Zip code 78207 is one of the poorest zip codes in San Antonio, with a long history of segregation and economic segregation, which has shaped the forces to be what they are. now, ”Balli said. “The region is underserved in all aspects – food, transport, infrastructure – not so long ago there was a large flood zone. Historically, the region has been much neglected. This is the environment in which it is. we operate. “

The West Side of San Antonio is weeks away from the start of a new chapter that will link Latin literature to the community when the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC) Bookstore opens.

Courtesy of Tony Diaz

The bookstore is funded with the $ 839,000 the campus received as part of the city’s 2012 obligation to renovate the Progreso pharmacy building and add a community art gallery and gift shop. Balli says she added the concept of the bookstore when she arrived in 2016, making it a five-year effort.

While Balli oversees the larger vision, she brought in Tony Diaz as the bookstore’s literary curator. His responsibilities include selecting books and developing programming to bridge the city’s literary ecosystem, involving other stores, the San Antonio Public Library, and schools. Balli says Diaz has a long history in the literary arts, working with authors, retailers, and a history of activism through his Librotraficante movement, which tackles censorship in Arizona.

“There’s no one better in the state to do this,” Bali adds.

Diaz says his plans don’t fit a corporate agenda. He says it was the sales-oriented methods of the industry that fostered a literary wilderness to begin with.

“If we follow these rules, we wouldn’t even open a bookstore,” he says. “Business English condemns our communities to investors. So we organize books based on community cultural capital, which is the heritage of the cultural center. “

The West Side of San Antonio is weeks away from the start of a new chapter that will link Latin literature to the community when the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC) Bookstore opens.

The West Side of San Antonio is weeks away from the start of a new chapter that will link Latin literature to the community when the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC) Bookstore opens.

Courtesy of Tony Diaz

While Diaz doesn’t work to appeal to business models, he says the business world will witness the benefits of investing in the culturally rich communities of San Antonio. It highlights the state’s recent designation of the West Side as the city’s cultural district.

“I have no doubt that this will be a destination and that we will get millions of dollars in sales over the next few years,” he says.


For the moment, he is working on developing the bookstore’s offer, from shelves to experiments. Inaugural books include Dr Roberto Cintli Rodriguez Write 50 years más o menos chez les gringos, Max Baca Crossing borders: my journey in music, and Diana Lopez’s picture book, Sing with me: the story of Selena Quintanilla.

The 2022 author series will bring “the cornerstones of Chicano,” Balli said. Names Diaz has on deck include 2022 Texas Poet Laureate Lupe Mendez, Baca and more.

Diaz’s vision for connecting schools includes author visits to JT Brackenridge Academy, Tafolla Middle School, and Lanier Middle School. It sees coordinating lesson plans and donations of books that reflect the culture and experiences of the students who read them.

The West Side of San Antonio is weeks away from the start of a new chapter that will link Latin literature to the community when the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC) Bookstore opens.

The West Side of San Antonio is weeks away from the start of a new chapter that will link Latin literature to the community when the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC) Bookstore opens.

Courtesy of Tony Diaz

“I hope that in a few years there will be a whole generation of students who will just be used to thinking this is how their literature classes work,” he says. “I would love to see high school kids say they should get their masters in prose or poetry.”

Balli and Diaz’s goal is for the bookstore to be a must-see destination on the CCGA campus, a place where visitors can immerse themselves in the culture by browsing through books, even when the plazas and theater are not active with performances or projections.

“We want people to get used to thinking, ‘Okay, when they go to the theater, don’t forget to go to the Progreso (building) to pick up a book, “Diaz adds.

The store is launched with a celebration steeped in Latin culture. Carmen Tafolla and Tomás Ybarra-Frausto will help baptize the opening as what Balli calls “literary padrinos”, or godfathers and godmothers. The October 1 opening will also mark the nationwide launch of Rodriguez’s aforementioned book.

The West Side of San Antonio is weeks away from the start of a new chapter that will link Latin literature to the community when the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC) Bookstore opens.

The West Side of San Antonio is weeks away from the start of a new chapter that will link Latin literature to the community when the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC) Bookstore opens.

Courtesy of Tony Diaz

The team says the opening “book party” is symbolic of the “hodgepodge of culture” and community that San Antonio, and the rest of Texas, should expect from the store.

“We have to work together to create a whole generation of family libraries,” adds Diaz. “When we do that, we all win. On that note, it also builds on San Antonio’s legacy, but it will be a cornerstone for every city. It will not just be a center for San Antonio, this c ‘s where we will feature writers from across the state. ”

The Guadalupe Cultural Art Center Bookstore is located at 1300 Guadalupe Street. Once open, the hours of operation will be noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.




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