Every indicator points to Oaxaca being a sophisticated place, with posters everywhere announcing music, dance and theater performances, art events, film festivals, and most importantly, as far as I’m concerned, many opportunities to buy and borrow books.
Biblioteca Publica Central
Residing since 1985 in a grand neighborhood of historic buildings just north of the ZÓcalo is the elegant Biblioteca Publica Central, originally a private girls’ school. Books and services surround a beautiful, well-used double courtyard.
The Oaxaca Lending Library
Across town, about a 15 minute walk from the Biblioteca Publica Central is the largely English language Oaxaca Lending Library. A membership organization, a good deal of effort is made to include, in particular, the children and young people of the community with Spanish-language children’s books, a Spanish-language section of adult books and donations of reading material to teachers of English for their students. Much of the work of running the library is done by volunteers, of which I was one on 6 of the days I was in town. I enjoyed the company of those working in the OLL and was encouraged to return to the city again and work more. It feels good to be wanted.
My Hide-out at OLL
Amate Books, I’d read from a number of sources, is considered by many to be the best English-language bookstore in Mexico. I don’t doubt it. I visited several times and bought books about mezcal and a small hardcover book of black and white photographs of the JardÍn EtnobotÁnico, the botanic garden. A charming and enthusiastic young man, Alfonso, was there every time I stopped by and I looked forward to seeing him.
LibrerÍa GrañÉn Porrúa
Poking my head into the entrance of a courtyard one day to investigate a coffee shop, I turned and across the entrance was a spectacular bookstore, LibrerÍa GrañÉn Porrúa. I wandered in wide-eyed and was met by a young man who gave me permission to take photos. Then, as I went from room to room, deeper into the building, he found me again and we talked. He told me he’d come to Oaxaca from a small town, he lived in a room he rented and he was clearly thrilled to be working in such a place. There was striking art on the walls and the historic building had been filled to the high ceilings with constructions to hold the books and to climb to the highest shelves, the interior itself a work of art. Without a doubt, it was one of the most interesting bookstores I can remember seeing. The books were all in Spanish but it served a purpose, no distractions for me from the physical wonder of the place. Afterward, I bought a coffee and sat in the courtyard looking in through the windows, still amazed.
There are other opportunities for book-lovers all over town, modest ones like those below, and grander ones such as the historic library displayed in the Centro Cultural Santo Domingo and also in the large shop there and at the Monte Alban archeological site visitor center. And no doubt others I’ve yet to discover. Another time.
Next week, Mezcal.
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