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Fronteras: A San Antonio West Side bookstore nurtures access to literature and uplifts Latino authors and scholars

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A 2016 NYU study found that book deserts, geographic areas where printed books and other reading material are hard to obtain, leave children unprepared to learn when they enter school.

Literacy is reliant on book availability, and a lack of access to public libraries or bookstores is not uncommon for lower income communities. San Antonio’s South and West Side neighborhoods are considered book deserts, which the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center hopes to remedy with its new Latino Bookstore.

“When we talk about the West Side being a book desert and it's also a resource desert of all kinds, as we know,” the Guadalupe’s Executive Director, Cristina Ballí, explained. “But it is not a cultural desert, that's for sure.”

The mostly-Mexican American West Side community has been working to shake off decades of social and economic injustice, educational inequality and harmful stereotypes. Local grassroots organizations, including the Guadalupe, have turned to the arts as a way to ensure culture and representation remain vibrant in the community.

The Latino Bookstore also features a gift shop inside the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.
Norma Martinez
The Latino Bookstore also features a gift shop inside the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.

The Latino Bookstore’s literary curator, Tony Diaz, was determined to hone in on and amplify this rich culture by featuring Texas Latino authors, Chicano scholars, as well as books on Mexican-American studies and other historical icons that are often removed from mainstream narratives or not commonly found in popular chain bookstores. He credits the bookstore’s success to the Guadalupe’s community-centered approach.

“There's a huge demand. The stock is flying off the shelves,” said Diaz. “So if we approach a community on corporate terms, we will remain engulfed in book deserts. If we approach our community, understanding our values, our visions and our needs, we will blossom.”

The Latino Bookstore is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from noon to 6 p.m. in the historic Progreso building at 1300 Guadalupe St.

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Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren