By Ismael Nuñez
It happened like this. September 2007 Librería Lectorum bookstore in business for fifty years rode into the sunset. While their neighbor Macondo bookstore in business for thirty-five years became ancient history in November of 2007. Both were located on 14th street between the 7th and 8th Avenues in Manhattan. Now in upper Manhattan two bookstores that also specialize in Latin American Literature are facing either the same fate or an uncertain future.
Librería Caliope at 170 Dyckman Street, specializing in literature of the Dominican Republic, has become the latest victim. This bookstore was not only a place where people in the community knew they could get books and writings by Chilean Pablo Neruda (winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971), Colombian Gabriel García Márquez, and Dominican Julia Álvarez, and many less-well known and hard-to-find authors, it also served as a place for weekly tertulias: literary meetings, poetry events, presentations of books and the arts. According to entrepreneur/owner César González “The schools and colleges knew the doors were always open for them if they needed to do group projects, or if they were presenting their own work.”
In summer of 2009, Gonzaléz with some friends and supporters launched an almost successful campaign to save the bookstore, described HERE. And now, despite being closed to the public González continues with his business selling books on Dyckman Street near the store. You will see him there every day with the exception of bad weather from 1:00pm to 6:00pm.
The owners of the property are Fireside Pentecostal Assembly Church located at 6971 Thayer Street. When approached about the situation they refused to comment. González stated “I'm not surprised that they didn't want to say anything. Who knows what their thoughts are!”
For residents in the community it's a sad feeling. The store represented Hispanic pride and history. A young mother, Carmen, with her daughter walking by looked at the store and shared her feelings about the store:
“I bring my daughter to the store whenever I can and showed her the books in the store, the contributions Latinos have made to literature.” She then added, “I have noticed also there's a lot of signs that say For Rent. That concerns me.” Ángel is another customer. “When I would purchase books on Latin America, especially the Dominican Republic (where he's from), Cuba, Puerto Rico, I always came here. Nothing against the big bookstores. I knew when I needed information on a writer or poet I came here. When this goes I don't know where I would go, it was in the community, easy access for all!”
15 to 20 you will end up at the Librería Continental, located nearby at 628 West 207th Street. Owner Ildefonso A. Santiago also has his concerns. “With economy the way it is, people unemployed, people staying on top their bills, one might not be interested in books.” Then he added “Look at the area... it's changing. Condos and big businesses. Who knows what will happen in the next chapter.”