Wednesday, May 14, 2008

La Casa Azul Promotes Latino Culture

Featured Entrepreneur: Aurora Anaya-Cerda

From left, Former Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Dylcia Pagan and La Casa Azul's Aurora Anaya-Cerda pose for a photo at a recent La Casa Azul bookstore event. (Photo by Ismael Nunez)

Cultural activist Aurora Anaya-Cerda is working to preserve the Latino voices of El Barrio through her labor of love: La Casa Azul, a new independent bookstore and café that will open in NYC’s El Barrio later this year. The shop, however, is up and running online at

The bookstore, Anaya-Cerda said, serves as an opportunity to share the Latino experience in writing, art, and history. When the store space in El Barrio finally opens, it will offer a collection of books, music, and history from the United States, Mexico, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

“We want to provide a place of knowledge to the community through contemporary bilingual literature, featuring works by Latino writers,” Anaya-Cerda said of her La Casa Azul, which means blue house in Spanish.

Anaya-Cerda said she drew her inspiration from Frida Kahlo (July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954). Kahlo was a Mexican painter, who has achieved great international popularity. She painted using vibrant colors in a style that was influenced by indigenous cultures of Mexico as well as European influences. Many of her works are self-portraits that symbolically express her own pain. Her "Blue" house, located in Coyoacan, Mexico City is now a popular museum, donated by Diego Rivera after Kahlo's death in 1954.

Two other goals she has for the bookstore is to “provide culturally relevant books and events” and to “provide awareness and political consciousness on issues that affect Latin Americans in New York City.”

Why open a small business in the business in East Harlem? “There was something about this community that just caught my eye,” she said. “I saw a proud diversity of people, gifted artists. This is the place for a bookstore. Community/artists already have given full pledged support.”

For now, Casa Azul is only a virtual shop. But it does have activities offline. For example, there is a Barrio Book Club that meets once a month at local restaurants. The club’s next book is “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” by Junot Diaz who recently won the Pulitzer fiction prize for this novel that took him 11 years to complete.

Elisha Miranda, author and poet, has said: “This bookstore is a welcomed addition to El Barrio during a time when non-Latinos are flooding in this neighborhood and pushing out locally owned businesses that reflect our Diaspora.” -- Ismael Nunez
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