Pablo Helguera is an artist and an educator born in Mexico City, “el DF” (District Federal); he grew up with classical music and immersed in the culture and art that abound in its streets. El DF is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, reflecting pre-Columbian, colonial, and contemporary Mexico, all piled one on top of another, vying for attention and prominence. La calle Donceles, (Donceles Street) is folded into the historic center of the city and is known for hiding mysteries and secrets in the millions of books living throughout its many bookstores. Donceles is a place where anyone can go and lose him or herself in timeless voyages and worlds of words. The books that come and go, like people, speak to their respective time— events in the world, the social and political order, art, fashion, philosophies, and more that together encapsulate a national and cultural identity.
When Helguera moved to New York City, he was taken aback by the scarcity of Spanish language bookstores in the city. How could it be that in a nation with more than 38 million Spanish speakers, and that in New York City, one of the biggest and most diverse cities in the nation with almost 2 and a half million LatinX, there was such a lack of books in Spanish? This inspired Helguera to propose “Librería Donceles” as a unique art installation that simultaneously addresses this scarcity, looks at the “book” as form and object, and also explores matters of identity.
“Librería Donceles” opened in Brooklyn in 2013. The project surpassed his expectations, Helguera said, “Initially we thought that we’d run the bookstore for just two months or so, but it was such a complex operation to bring 20,000 books to New York that it lasted longer. Then we had the problem that we didn’t know what to do with all the books at the end of the exhibition, but thankfully other cities expressed interest in being host to the bookstore, and that started this nomadic travel of the books store to about 11 or so locations that still continues and to here, to Anchorage” “Librería Donceles” has been to Miami, Phoenix, San Francisco, New York (twice), Chicago, Indianapolis, Seattle, Boston, and now Anchorage. Francesca Du Brock, from the Anchorage Museum says about ‘Librería Donceles’”, “I love the simplicity and sincerity of this project. On the surface, it’s fairly basic, but it has pretty major implications. It’s about visibility, tolerance, understanding, and the importance of preserving cultural richness and diversity. It places explicit value on the Spanish language, as well as on books and bookstores, which are disappearing from our urban landscape. It’s also an open invitation – the space itself provides an opportunity for diverse publics to gather and exchange ideas and experiences. It’s an important project for the Museum because it allows the Museum to expand beyond its walls, to use art in ways that are both inviting and unexpected, and to start fresh conversations around our city.”
‘Librería Donceles’ as an art project has taken a life of its own. The transcendence of art from artist to viewers is exactly what art ought to do and something for which all artists strive. ‘Librería Donceles’ shapes and is shaped by the communities in which it lives because of its ability to reach audiences of any background, nationality, gender, or creed. Bookstores hold a key to understanding any given culture through the books they hold. Writing and reading are a universal human privilege for those who are lucky to participate in them. Millennia of writing culture and reading culture have lefts a map of human evolution of thought, philosophies, and behavioral norms. In the case of ‘Librería Donceles’, if one knows Spanish, the experience will feel like a homecoming, which is especially important in Alaska, which is, in some cases, on the other side of the continent(s). If one doesn’t know Spanish, ‘Librería Donceles’ will be a world of wonder, giving one a sense of what Latin American culture feels, looks, and smells like. ‘Librería Donceles’ opens up spaces at a political time in which opportunities for open dialogue are diminishing. It invites people to come into a shared experience because issues like immigration, Diasporas, and ideas of home are not only about LatinX, they are about everyone—because everyone has a story.
“Librería Donceles” will run through January 6, 2019
The bookstore is open Thursday through Sunday from 10am to 6pm with evening hours for special events.
Anchorage Downtown Transit Center, 630 G St., Suite 114
Please e-mail Gabriela Riquelme to contribute ideas to the bookstore at: email@example.com
E-mail Francesca Du Brock for more information about the project: firstname.lastname@example.org