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

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

San Antonio’s West Side is a few weeks back from launching a new chapter that will tie Latino literature to the community when the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC) bookstore opens.

The 3,000-square-foot Latin bookstore opens Oct. 1 in the former Progreso pharmacy with a $ 20,000 inventory on the shelves. Customers will be able to browse and purchase literature written by Texas Latino writers focusing on Mexican-American studies and Chicano scholars and icons. Works for the children are also included.

GCAC CEO Cristina Balli says the store will put out the book desert that has plagued the area for generations. Mapping of San Antonio bookstores shows the west and south sides barren of books. The future of Southside’s only store, Dead Tree Books, is basically after owners Kenny and Melissa Johnson revealed in July that the company was struggling to survive in its current location.

“It’s economics. Zip code 78207 is one of the poorest zip codes in San Antonio with a long history of separation and economic separation that has shaped the forces to be what they are now,” Balli says. “The area is underserved in all aspects – food, transport, infrastructure – not so long ago there was a large flood zone. Historically, there has been a lot of neglect of the area. That is the environment we have operated in.”

San Antonio’s West Side is a few weeks back from launching a new chapter that will tie Latino literature to the community when the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC) bookstore opens.

Regards, Tony Diaz

The bookstore is funded by the $ 839,000 that the campus received as part of the city bond in 2012 to renovate the Progreso Pharmacy Building and add a local art gallery and gift shop. Balli says she added the bookstore concept when she joined in 2016, making it a five-year effort.

While Balli oversees the larger vision, she tapped Tony Diaz as literary curator of the bookstore. His responsibilities include selecting the 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 an extensive history in literary art working with writers, retail, and a history in activism through his Librotraficante movement, which tackles censorship in Arizona.

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

Diaz says his plans do not fall in line with a company’s agenda. He says it’s the industry’s sales – driven methods that fostered a literary desert to begin with.

“If we follow these rules, we would not even open a bookstore,” he says. “Business English turns our communities into investors. So we curate books based on the community’s cultural capital, which is the legacy of the Cultural Center.”

San Antonio's West Side is a few weeks back from launching a new chapter that will tie Latino literature to the community when the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC) bookstore opens.

San Antonio’s West Side is a few weeks back from launching a new chapter that will tie Latino literature to the community when the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC) bookstore opens.

Regards, Tony Diaz

Although Diaz does not work to please business models, he says the business world will witness the benefit of investing in San Antonio’s cultural community. He points to the state’s recent designation of the West Side as a cultural district in the city.

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


Right now he is working on developing offers from bookstores, from the shelves to experiences. Inauguration books include Dr. Roberto Cintli Rodriguez Writing 50 years more menus among gringos, Max Baca’s Crossing Borders: My Journey in Musicand Diana Lopez’s picture book, Sing with me: The story of Selena Quintanilla.

The 2022 author series will bring the “Chicano cornerstone,” Balli says. 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. He sees coordinating lesson plans and book donations that reflect the culture and experiences of the students who read them.

San Antonio's West Side is a few weeks back from launching a new chapter that will tie Latino literature to the community when the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC) bookstore opens.

San Antonio’s West Side is a few weeks back from launching a new chapter that will tie Latino literature to the community when the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC) bookstore opens.

Regards, Tony Diaz

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

Balli and Diaz’s goal is for the bookstore to be a destination to be visited on the GCAC campus, a place where visitors can immerse themselves in culture by browsing books, even when the squares and theater are not active with performances or performances.

“We want people to be used to thinking, ‘Okay, when they go to theater, do not forget to go to Progreso (the building) to pick up a book, ”adds Diaz.

The store is launched with a party full of Latin culture. Carmen Tafolla and Tomás Ybarra-Frausto will help christen the opening as what Balli calls “literary padrinos” or godparents. The October 1 opening will also mark the national launch of Rodriguez’s aforementioned book.

San Antonio's West Side is a few weeks back from launching a new chapter that will tie Latino literature to the community when the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC) bookstore opens.

San Antonio’s West Side is a few weeks back from launching a new chapter that will tie Latino literature to the community when the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC) bookstore opens.

Regards, Tony Diaz

The team says the opening “book bash” is symbolic of the “mish-mash of cultura” and community that San Antonio and the rest of Texas should expect from the store.

“We need to work together to create a whole generation of family libraries,” Diaz adds. “When we do, we all win. On that note, this is also built on the heritage of San Antonio, but it will be a cornerstone of every city. This will not just be a center of San Antonio, this is where we will showcase authors from across the state. ”

The Guadalupe Cultural Art Center’s bookstore is located at 1300 Guadalupe Street. Once the opening is open, the opening hours will be from kl. 18:00 Tuesday to Saturday.



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