February 26, 2019
Publishers donate thousands of books for refugees
by Michael Seidlinger
The idea began with Denise Chávez, the owner of Casa Camino Real Book Store and Art Gallery in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and a desire to help. The idea: Get books in the hands of refugees. The result was a book drive called Libros Para el Viaje, or “Books for the Journey.” The drive collects books from booksellers, publishers, and authors—anyone looking to contribute to the journey of a good story.
In the summer of 2018, Chávez began collaborating with the Peace Lutheran Church and Border Servant Corps (BSC) to get books into the hands of refugees near her hometown of Las Cruces. Expanding to the recently held Winter Institute (Wi14) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Libros Para el Viajo opened its arms to attendees, requesting new or gently-used books to continue fueling the book drive. The result was nothing short of astounding. Thousands of books were given, including a large donation of 50 Spanish-language titles from the American Booksellers Association.
Speaking to the American Booksellers Association, Chávez expressed her gratitude and enthusiasm:
I have to say the books have been phenomenal; they have continued to arrive. I would say the book drive is fully alive and well, if only because things are so bad here on the border. The refugees’ status is very bleak. But what I want to say to the booksellers is, you have no idea what a book means to these young children or to these adults. Thank you very, very much.
Since Wi14, Chávez and a number of volunteers from local organizations—including Hope Border Institute, Annunciation House, and Peace Lutheran Church—have sorted, counted, and continued taking donations. The current estimate of books donated to the drive is nearing 2,500. A testament to goodwill and human compassion, Libros Para el Viajo acts as another example of the transformative power of a book.
Michael Seidlinger is the Library and Academic Marketing Manager at Melville House.