*Why you should read this: Because in an era when Chicano books are banned and Latinos are used as a political wedge a Chicano bookstore in downtown Houston becomes an act of resistance. VL
By Christina Noriega, Remezcla (4 minute read)Texas activist and writer Tony Diaz is not new to the fight for greater Latino literacy, which due to Republican-backed agendas, has often felt more like a war than a struggle. In 2012, Diaz famously helped organized a “librotraficante” caravan that brought hundreds of banned Mexican-American books from Texas to Arizona; in 2016, he helped defeat a proposed Mexican-American studies textbook that aside from its slew of inaccuracies, depicted Mexican-Americans in racist stereotypes. Most recently, Diaz is returning to Houston for less headline-grabbing work: painting bookshelves and adding final touches to his new bookstore set to open in January.
The Latino bookstore Nuestra Palabra Art & Books is the first of its kind in Houston, which boasts one of the largest Latino populations in the country. Nuestra Palabra Arts & Books brings to the city a hand-picked selection of Latino authors, both nationally-recognized and locals that includes names likes Sandra Cisneros and Houston writer Maria Elenes Cortes. For the Second Ward, the historical Mexican-American neighborhood where Nuestra Palabra is putting down roots, it’s a welcome source of novels, poetry, history books, and even coloring books that reflect the surrounding community’s identity and history. Although Barnes & Nobles and second-hand bookstores are prevalent in Houston’s west side of town, books have become a harder commodity to find in Houston’s underserved downtown area.
“We can’t count on other institutions to deliver our culture.We’ve got to do it ourselves.”
“People have said that downtown Houston was a book desert,” Diaz told Houston Public Media. “We’ve just created an oasis.”