La Casa Azul, a bookstore in East Harlem, has welcomed some renowned Latino writers such as Junot Diaz, Esmeralda Santiago, and etc. who have ventured to the bookstore to sign and read from their respective books to audiences of loyal readers. And now, after being opened for a year its founder and owner Aurora Anaya-Cerda can celebrate it’s growing success and recognition from the White House as a “Champion of Change.”
In its first year, La Casa Azul’s under Anaya-Cerda’s has seen a substantial success. From its small abode in a brownstone in East Harlem, the shop has become a hub for members of the Latino Literati.
Hosting more than 200 events aimed at Latinos, also non-Latinos, interested in books the space has become something more than just a bookstore. Aside from offering literary works, the bookshop offers classes, workshops, and performances put together by members of the surrounding community.
A former middle school English teacher in East Los Angeles, Anaya-Cerda show of determination for the bookshop’s importance for Latinos in, and outside, of East Harlem began even before the bookshop’s doors opened. Starting a campaign entitled, 40k in 40 days where she gained donations from an estimated 500 or so contributors to open the shop.
“It feels amazing,” Anaya-Cerda said, talking about the bookstore’s run. “It’s almost hard to believe that a year has gone by.”
During an interview around the shop’s opening, Anaya-Cerda stressed how her intentions to open the shop was to stress the importance of reading amongst Latino youth. And so far she has succeeded since children in the area are amongst her core customers.
The bookshop is renowned for showcasing Latino writers, and in doing so also poses as a source of inspiration for future Latino, and non-Latino, writers who visit.
All the way from Westchester, Daniel Rodriguez, aged 34, recalls when he first visited the shop during its early days and how the shelves were barely stocked. But that is no longer the case.
“It’s great, I think it’s wonderful,” Rodriguez said. Rodriguez also notes that the shop is much more than a business for the area and that it is a “cultural center, like a community center.”
La Casa Azul’s will continue to be a strong presence in the community.
Anaya-Cerda plans to run a summer reading program, or a summer camp, in addition to events hosting local and national authors and artists.
”We want to continue establishing ourselves as East Harlem’s literary hub,” Anaya-Cerda said, “We have gotten tremendous support and acknowledgement from the media, but there are still people who don’t know we’re here.”
While only a few may know of La Casa Azul’s existence, that doesn’t stop Anaya-Cerda from getting her shop’s name out there as a literary hub for community. Anaya-Cerda has also started an East Harlem Children’s Book Festival which will spotlight authors, storytellers, and music for spectators of all ages.
With La Casa Azul’s 1st anniversary, Anaya-Cerda comments how “It’s been an incredible, very memorable year, but it’s still just one year, and we hope to be here for many, many years.”.