Home USA Spanish-language bookstores in Philadelphia and the Latin American Book Festival

Spanish-language bookstores in Philadelphia and the Latin American Book Festival

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As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, Philly will celebrate its fourth annual Latin American Book Festival this Friday. The free, daylong event at Love Park will include storytelling, author interviews, live music, and plenty of activities for the kiddos.

The festival will also feature plenty of Spanish-language books — to read, talk about, buy, or share. Philly’s vibrant (and growing) Latine population often builds community around supporting Spanish-language authors: The city is home to a new bilingual small press, plus a bookstore dedicated to Puerto Rican and Latin American literature.

Curious about where to find Spanish-language books year round in Philly? We rounded up several places, from little free libraries to the Free Library, where you can make good on those Goodreads goals.

Did we miss a spot? Send us your favorite bookstore with a Spanish-language section and we’ll add it to the list.

Philibros

South Philly and North Philly; hours vary 

These little free libraries were installed in 2020 to encourage more reading and solidarity among South Philly’s Latine communities. Now a year and a half after the project’s launch, these wooden boxes of Spanish-language books have made their way to some North Philly businesses, too.

There are currently 20 local businesses which host one of the huacalibreros — four in North Philly, 16 in South Philly — which are filled with books that people can browse and borrow 24/7. Host establishments include restaurants like Alma del Mar, Taquitos de Puebla, and Tamalex Restaurant, a hair salon, the Church of the Crucifixion, Juntos, and the Mexican Consulate building.

To date, Philibros has distributed 1,8000 books, according to Edgar Ramírez, one of the co-founders.

“Almost every day, someone writes to me to tell me that they read another book, or to thank us that they could give books to their kids, or also to call us to say that they want to donate a book,” Ramírez told Billy Penn.

Ramírez also said that while many people are donating books, demand is so high that some huacalibreros are emptied within a week.

If you’re thinking about donating,  anyone who wants to donate books or volunteer can contact Philibros via Instagram or Facebook. The project also hosts a semi-regular reading club called Booktitlán, and a podcast of the same name that hosts local authors.

Courtesy Philibros

Julia de Burgos Bookstore at Taller Puertorriqueño

2600 N. 5th St.; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday 

This collection of Latine authors, Spanish-language books, and books about Latin America is a “hidden gem” — at least according to its manager, Lisa Moser.

Located inside of the Fairhill Latine cultural center Taller Puertorriqueño, the bookstore currently houses around 400 Spanish-language books, per Moser.

“A lot of people are surprised when they find [us]. People will come and spend a lot of time just browsing,” said Moser. To her knowledge, Julia de Burgos is the only bookstore in the Philly area that specializes in Spanish and bilingual books, plus books by Latine authors and books about Latin America.

Though the storefront has been around for decades, the bookstore’s name recently changed from the Julia de Burgos Gift Shop to Julia de Burgos Bookstore. The store still sells work from local artists alongside the books, but Moser said the name change highlights their mission as a Latine bookseller in an area where there aren’t many bookstores, period. To that end, residents of the 19133 ZIP code receive 20% off on all items.

“Now that the name is ‘bookstore’, we’re definitely trying to expand more. We’re getting new books pretty much every week,” Moser said. Right now, children’s books are the store’s most popular, she explained, because they focus on culturally relevant themes that families can read about together.

Julia de Burgos’ specializes in Puerto Rican literature, but all Latin American cultures are represented among the shelves. Moser tries to update the selection regularly based on customer feedback.

Moser’s favorite book in the current rotation: “Mi lenguaje roto,” the Spanish translation of this year’s One Book One Philadelphia selection, Quiara Alegría Hudes’ “My Broken Language.” Moser said Hudes and her mother pored over the translation to ensure it accurately reflected the lived experiences Hudes details in her memoir of growing up in a Puerto Rican family in North Philadelphia.

For more information on Julia de Burgos Bookstore’s events, programming, and latest updates on their hours, you can follow their Instagram or shop their online store, where you can order and purchase items for delivery or in-store pick-up.

philibros-5
Courtesy Philibros

Free Library of Philadelphia

Throughout Philadelphia; hours vary 

The Free Library has always been a refuge for book lovers, but in recent years, the system has grown its resources when it comes to targeting Spanish-language readers.

According to statistics provided by the Free Library, there are over 7,400 Spanish-language books available for circulation in the library system.

For children’s Spanish-language books, the biggest collection is housed in the Children’s Department at the Parkway Central Library, and the second-largest is found at Northeast Regional Library, but other branches throughout the city also have sizable Spanish-language children’s sections. These collections include picture and chapter books, with plenty translations of popular titles, and can be found at:

  • South Philadelphia Library
  • Kensington Library
  • Lillian Marrero Library
  • Philadelphia City Institute
  • McPherson Square Library
  • Greater Olney Library
  • Charles Santore Library

For adults, the Free Library also has a considerable amount of Spanish-language titles to offer, but the list of those branches looks a little different:

  • Northeast Regional Library
  • Kensington Library
  •  Lillian Marrero Library
  • Frankford Library
  • South Philadelphia Library
  • Greater Olney Library
  • Charles Santore Library

Want to start browsing and checking out books and more? We have a guide for getting — and using —  a library card.

Local Spanish-language publishing houses

There are at least two local, independent publishing houses focused on Spanish-language books in the Greater Philadelphia region.

Antípoda was co-founded in summer of 2020 by Puerto Rican journalist Joel Cintrón Arbasetti, and writer, translator, and visual artist Heather Houde. So far, its offerings are small, Arbasetti told Billy Penn: three books, including one in Spanish, one in English, and one that’s bilingual, but they plan to grow their selection with more experimental fiction.

Syncretic Press is located outside of Philadelphia, in Wilmington, Delaware, but has already had a wider impact on the region. Founded by Enrique Morás, they publish children’s books from authors based in Spain and Latin America, plus translations of Spanish-language books. Morás also works with Philly-based community groups and libraries — like Philibros — to connect Syncretic Press’s books with their intended audience: kids of Spanish-speaking parents and families interested in learning the language together.

To date, Syncretic has published over 30 titles, and has started Bilingual Book Walks, or large displays of pages from bilingual books placed in outdoor settings. You can shop their books online by age range here.



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