il Mundos Books is a bilingual bookstore in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. With all of the luxury construction popping up all over the city, Mil Mundos is dedicated to providing a space for the working class people already living in that neighborhood. About half of the titles they stock are in Spanish, and cover a variety of topics that make the bookstore a welcoming space for all who enter. I spoke with store founder Maria Herron about what brought her on this journey, her plans for the future, and the store’s ongoing crowdfunding campaign.
For those who haven’t heard of the bookstore, give us a little introduction.
Mil Mundos Books is a new bilingual bookstore and community center in Bushwick, the first bookstore to exist in this area east of Myrtle Ave in decades. We curate to celebrate Black and Latinx heritage; roughly half of our titles are available in Spanish. We see ourselves as part of a larger anti-gentrification project working to build space for the community already living here, that allows them to trust in new spaces actually being for them, and not specifically for a more moneyed class moving in.
Bushwick is a historically Puerto Rican neighborhood that has seen plenty of gentrification in the past decade. Did you know right away that it was the right neighborhood for Mil Mundos, or did you consider other neighborhoods?
Gentrification is happening in lots of different neighborhoods in New York City, but the neighborhood that I have been living in for several years now and feels most like home to me is Bushwick. This is a neighborhood that I and many others want to feel invited to think long-term about, and so it made the most sense for me to invest in a project like Mil Mundos here in Bushwick. Our hope is that with the work that we do at Mil Mundos Books, others are provided with a model to set up shop in their own communities and a blueprint for addressing gentrification in the context of their own neighborhood.
What has the response been from the community?
Overwhelmingly positive. Residents are reaching out to us on a regular basis with gratitude, schools are reaching out to us to collaborate, kids in the area come in to draw, or do homework. I don’t know of any other space like this in the area that existed before.
“We see ourselves as part of a larger anti-gentrification project working to build space for the community already living here, that allows them to trust in new spaces actually being for them.”
I read in the recent Remezcla article that you serve Cuban coffee. I love the idea of being able to get un cafecito while I browse lovely books! What are some other things you’d like to see in Mil Mundos to create the kind of atmosphere missing from other bookstores? (And is it cool if I bring my own leche de soya?)
Pues, ¡tenemos leche vegano! Jaja. I think what adds most to the atmosphere of the space are the various projects that other team members and community members take on at the space—bringing in plants as gifts, starting book clubs, even just the choices people make in what books are faced out on display. A space for the community is best served by also being that community.
You’ve been open for a few months now. What are some challenges you’re facing?
Money is always one of the biggest factors in sustaining a space in NYC. We started out $10,000 over budget in construction costs and $10,000 under-funded in our SBA loan. We are in our final days of our crowdfunding campaign and plan on doing some sort of monthly workshare program after that. Regardless of whether we stay open for a short timeframe or longer one, though, we are committed to creating a lasting impact with schools, educators, and families to demonstrate what could be possible for our community.
What does the future look like? What sort of events and programming are you hoping to have at the store?
So far we have had events for dance, magazines, an art show, our first book club, we have done pop ups and tables at festivals here in the city—so much going on! We are most excited about building programming to curate book fairs with schools, and host class trips at the store. Being able to inhabit a space filled with books for your browsing pleasure has not been possible in eastern Bushwick, and for many students in nearby neighborhoods, outside of what the local library is able to provide. We hope to serve as a crucial resource in dual language programs and curriculums in general, engaging with students and parents alike.
What are some ways for people to get involved in keeping Mil Mundos open and helping it become stable?
Donate to the Indiegogo campaign before it ends! Keep an eye out for our workshare programming coming afterwards. If you are an educator, we are also a registered VENDEX vendor! We are definitely eager to see how we can collaborate on programming with schools during summer session this year. If anything, come by the store, say hi, ask questions, and be a part of the conversation!
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