Boston’s Only Spanish Language Used Bookstore, Libreria Donceles, Opens at Urbano Project in JP

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Libreria Donceles at Urbano Project, January 13 - March 31

Urbano Project will present Librería Donceles, a socially-engaged art project consisting of an itinerant bookstore of more than 10,000 used books in Spanish. While in residence at Urbano, the participatory art installation will be a meeting place for the community, hosting a series of bilingual salon-like gatherings for conversations, performances and workshops designed to encourage cultural understanding, tolerance and social activism.

Libreria Donceles at Urbano Project, January 13 through March 31, 2017.

On view January 13th through March 31, 2017, Librería Donceles will be open Monday through Friday, 1 to 6 pm and Saturday, 10 to 2 pm, at Urbano's Gallery space at 29 Germania Street in Jamaica Plain. An opening reception took place on January 13, which included an artist talk and performance at 7:30 pm.

Created by New York-based artist and educator Pablo Helguera out of a desire to address the lack of literary outlets that serve the growing Hispanic and Latino communities in the United States, Librería Donceles will be the sole Spanish-language bookstore in the Greater Boston area, bringing attention to the fact that there are millions of Spanish speakers in the US and yet a scarcity of books in Spanish.

"Urbano is thrilled to host Librería Donceles, a powerful installation that invites the community to join us in advocating for cultural understanding and social justice," said Urbano Executive Director Stella Aguirre McGregor. "The bookstore's residency will further our mission to create a dynamic space where an exchange of ideas and language happens between artists, students, creative practitioners, and people who live in the community."

"Librería Donceles is a project that seeks to respond to two important phenomena in the urban landscape of the U.S: the phasing out of the bookstore and the invisibility of the Spanish language," said Helguera. "Amidst the upheaval caused by many important social and economic events in the 21st century, the demise of the physical bookstore might be a small footnote. Yet it is important to think about the cause of these events. We live in a society that while everyday being more interconnected through social media is less invested in the physical experience of holding and reading a book. And yet it is widely acknowledged that bookstores serve as important gathering places for a community where meaningful interactions can take place."

Started in 2013 with the purpose of creating a space for second-hand books in Spanish, Librería Donceles functions both as a "third place" where a community of speakers and learners can exchange experiences, as well as a small institution with the goal to promote the richness of Spanish-language literature and writing. By offering what starts to feel like a defunct business model -- the used bookstore, with resources that are hard to find in the market-used books in Spanish, Donceles aims to expand the appreciation of the cultural contributions of Latin America and Spain to the world, both through its book offerings and its programming activities.

Part functioning bookstore and part participatory installation, Librería Donceles confronts the very tangible implications of particular social dynamics, revealing social structures that exist within plain sight, while powerfully advocating for equity through the physical presence of a bookstore. The situation has been made more critical by rapid transformations in publishing, with the rise of e-books and the demise of bookstores of all sorts.

Taking its name from the historic street, Calle Donceles, in Mexico City that is lined with used bookstores, the installation premiered in Brooklyn, NY in 2013 and has since traveled to Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, and Indianapolis. Boston will be the library's last stop.

Comprising over 10,000 volumes on virtually every subject -- literature, poetry, art, history, science, medicine, anthropology economics, and politics, as well as children's book-the books were all donated in exchange for artworks created by Helguera. Each book bears the name of its donor on an ex libris plate inside its front cover, pointing to the social history retained within that book. All books are pay as you wish, with a limit of one book per customer, per visit, substituting the terms of a market economy with those of a gift economy. The money will be directed towards Urbano's arts education and social justice programs.

Pablo Helguera (b. 1971, Mexico City) combines performance, visual art, community outreach, and political activism to examine the social and cultural function of teaching and memory systems. He has exhibited and performed internationally in many museums and biennials (most recently at the 2016 Manifesta and Site Santa Fe biennials) and is currently the Director of Adult and Academic Programs in the Education Department at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Urbano Project brings together urban youth and professional artists to ignite social change through place-based participatory art and performance projects. Together we foster future generations of creative and civic leaders committed to social justice. Urbano's 2016-2017 curatorial theme, 'The Commons | The Other,' addresses themes of racial, ethnic, cultural and urban identity and representation that are embedded in our society.

Support for Urbano Project is provided by Barr/Klarman Foundations, The Boston Foundation, Surdna Foundation, Mass Cultural Council, Boston Cultural Council, National Endowment for the Arts, Frank Reed and Margaret Jane Peters Memorial Fund I, and Bloomberg Philanthropies.