August 12, 2005

Spanish-language bookstores are increasing in San Diego

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

In the past, Tomás Higuera had to cross the border to Tijuana to buy books in Spanish at Libreria El Dia. But since he discovered Casa del Libro, in Hillcrest, Higuera is happy.

“I’m addicted to books,” he said. “Now I don’t have to drive to Tijuana to find the Latin American authors I like. It’s really good for bookstores to realize that there are many Hispanics who prefer to read in our own language”.

In San Diego there are several bookstores that specialize in books in Spanish. The number of publishing houses that publish books full of ‘ñ’ have doubled in the last decade.

The bookstores

Casa del Libro, in Hillcrest, is one of the bookstores that offer a large selection of books in Spanish.

Owners of Moctezuma Books, Edgardo and Lisa Moctezuma

“Opening a Spanish-language bookstore was natural for me,” said owner Marta Luisa Sclar, who worked for more than 20 years as a librarian in San Ysidro and Logan Heights. “We opened the bookstore because we saw there was a need among the Hispanic community in the county.”

And the public, Sclar said, has responded.

“People come in and they tell us they really like our Spanish-language bookstore,” she said.

Edgardo Moctezuma, owner of Moctezuma Books & Gallery, in Chula Vista, opened his bookstore about five years ago.

In addition to selling books, Moctezuma Books is also a gallery for the art of Hispanic painters. “I think that reading complements painting,” he said.

Librería Latinoamericana, also in Chula Vista, is another place where Carlos Fuentes and Octavio Paz lovers can find Spanish-language titles. “Here we give an orientation to costumers, we recommend them books and authors,” said owner Jose Figueroa.

It’s not a business

The last time that Ramona Duarte went into a bookstore was more than three years ago, to buy a book by Mexican author Carlos Cuauh-temoc Sanchez. “I’m very lazy when it comes to reading,” said the Chula Vista resident. “Also, I don’t have a lot time to read.”

There are a lot of people like Duarte: They don’t read.

“Truth is people read less everyday,” Moctezuma said. “Books in Spanish in the U.S. not only compete against books in English, but also against T.V. and sports.”

Sclar shares his opinion. “It’s a difficult time for bookstores,” she said.

Figueroa said that he knows people who were bookstore owners but who have had to sell because of poor sales.

“This is not a business, if you want to get rich, this is the last industry you should get into,” he said.

Encouraging reading

Still, Spanish-language bookstore owners are firm in their ideals. Besides, a large porcentage of their sales come from distribution to libraries and schools.

Sclar said to encourage reading among newer generations, adults have to set the example. “Parents don’t read aloud to their children,” she said. “There’s not a strong reading tradition among Hispanics. We need to change that.”

She added that Casa del Libro has developed reading programs with local schools. “It’s important that our children start reading from early on,” she said. “Here at Casa del Libro we’re supporting this by working with teachers and schools to get kids reading. We’re forming new readers, because once a child likes books, he will never drop out of school.”

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