Spanish-language bookstore Palabras awaits its grand opening

Palabras bookstore is located on Grand Avenue just outside of downtown Phoenix. (Selena Shannon/DD)

Palabras Libreria/Bookstore, a Spanish-language bookstore, will celebrate its grand opening Nov. 12 in conjunction with the Grand Avenue Festival.

Owner Rosie Magaña opened the bookstore to better serve the Spanish-speaking population in downtown Phoenix, a group she says is underserved at most bookstores. She was inspired after seeing the interactive art instillation “Librería Donceles” by Pablo Helguera at ASU’s Combine Studio, which showcased a library of over 10,000 Spanish-language books.

“It was an inspiring piece for me,” Magaña said. “This is a space that would help to give a voice to the people in a community.”

Palabras Bookstore had a soft open about a year ago, but with only five books to start, Magaña said she wanted to wait until she had enough books to celebrate its opening.

With the shelves now full, Palabras is aligning its grand opening with the Grand Avenue Festival, an annual celebration of the city’s historic arts and small business district that expects to draw out about 2,000 people, according to festival organizer Beatrice Moore.

Moore said she was in full support of what Magaña is trying to achieve with her bookstore.

“We have a lot of Spanish-speaking people in our neighborhood,” Moore said. “I am worried about gentrification.”

Palabras will host a variety of activities during the festival including a traditional Yerba mate tea hour, storytelling and various other workshops.

“It’s going to be a traditional tea hour with the whole gourds and cool metal spoons,” Magaña said. “That is going to be followed by a Bomba player and a story telling section.”

Not only does Palabras want to make customers aware of the store at the opening, but it also aims to bring awareness to its cause.

Magaña had a personal reason to open this store. She said she came from a first-generation Mexican American family with parents who did not know the language.

The bookstore is meant to be a space that encourages language and literature in the Hispanic community.

By keeping children and adults immersed in the Latin culture through literature, Magaña said she hopes that it will call people to action to preserve culture as downtown Phoenix moves towards innovation.

“It’s sad that when people think of progress they think of newer buildings and newer restaurants,” Magaña said. “Their idea of progress comes at the cost of other people’s progress.”

That is one reason Magaña chose to locate Palabras on Grand Avenue. She said she wants to base the bookstore where the community is.

In an effort to further connect with the community, Palabras has started a new project of setting up pop-up libraries around downtown. These are at two locations so far – one by the headquarters of Puente, a grass root migrant justice organization, and the other by the community development center for Tonatierra, an organization supporting indigenous people.

Magaña said the store will also start working on a project with the Phoenix Public Library to teach parents techniques to read at home with their children later this month.

As Palabras continues to work towards its goal of helping the community in any way possible, Magaña said the bookstore still faces its own need for more Spanish-language books.

Palabras is currently open Saturday and Sunday from 3:30-8 p.m. It will extend its operating hours to Tuesday through Friday from 1-7 p.m. and Saturday from 1-6 p.m.

For more information about Palabras Liberia, visit their website.

Contact the reporter at chelsea.shannon@asu.edu.