In a super-connected world, Colombian booksellers Norma and Eduardo Durán carry the “Revistas y Periódicos” bookstore on their shoulders, the only one that offers books exclusively in Spanish in all of Miami.
While Norma attends to the readers and curious people who enter the small shop in the neighborhood of Westchester, in the southwest of the city, Eduardo Durán makes an aside and explains to the voice of america how they manage to maintain a constant community of customers and readers without using social networks.
“We have a social network that is word of mouth,” he explains.
Durán says that his clientele likes the bookstore “and knows that in it they find what they need on different topics.”
For Durán there is no distinction of themes when it comes to a good book. “Here he finds Hitlerites and he finds Jews, the reader will see what he wants to read”.
In 32 years on the job, he says, they have kept “faithful readers to death.”
Universal history, contemporary literature, self-help. Fashion magazines and political or social interest. A range of diverse themes greets visitors in the tiny space left behind after leaving behind the main venue on Bird Road, 40th Street in Southwest Miami.
An updated library
The Russian invasion of Ukraine brought a new reader, says Durán. The books that talk about the reasons for the conflict are now the most sought after.
“The biggest demand for books right now is for books about the war in Ukraine,” he says.
“The topics that are moving in the news have their representation in books. I have books on the current war in Ukraine that just came out. People will be surprised to find in a book what they’re hearing on the news and they’re not really bringing the full story to them,” he said.
The bookseller’s job
“What is the trade of the bookseller? It is choosing. He has to have a general knowledge of literature and political and economic news”, reflects Durán.
The biggest task, he asserts, is to sift through at least 4,000 books that are published annually in Spanish and then “have a selection of 200 or 300 new books each year.”
“That’s the bookseller’s job,” he says.
‘El Gabo’, alive
Mario Vargas Llosa, Isabel Allende and other authors float in the conversation that Durán offers as a way of opening the world of books to see what is inside. The Nobel Prize for Literature and fellow countryman Gabriel García Márquez “El Gabo” occupies a top place.
“García Márquez is one of the writers who is most in demand among all groups of readers, be they Colombians, Cubans, Peruvians. Everyone prefers García Márquez over other writers”, he states.
After García Márquez’s death, Durán received an invitation to the popular local television program “Now with Oscar Haza”, and there he was confronted by someone who claimed that García Márquez “is a communist”.
Eduardo explains his vision of literature: “I told him, ‘you are confusing two different spheres. One thing is the sphere of literature and another that of politics’”.
“I, for example, would not read a book by my mother, because she is not a writer. If you want to read a good literature book, you can read García Márquez. If you want to read about politics, pick the writers who write about politics,” she concluded.
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Two Colombian booksellers maintain Miami’s only exclusively Spanish-language bookstore