Culture News

Palabras Libreria/Bookstore in Phoenix to Celebrate Grand Opening on November 12

Palabras Librería/Bookstore in the Grand Avenue arts district will hold its official grand opening on Saturday, November 12, during the Grand Avenue Festival.

Owner Rosaura “Rosie” Magaña actually opened Palabras, located at 1023 Grand Avenue, last November as an event space. She’s been working ever since to procure Spanish-language books and other resources to create a thriving community hub infused with language, literature, and art. The grand opening takes place from noon to 7 p.m., and includes a Yerba Mate tea tasting, snake show, drum performance, and a zine-writing workshop. Additionally, Palabras will present three bands as part of the festival's after-hours lineup. 

Creating Palabras (Spanish for “words”) has been a labor of love for Magaña, a native Phoenician and first-generation Mexican-American who says she loves being located on the “rebellious, nonconforming street” that shares the bookstore’s spirit. It’s housed inside the LaMelgosa building, distinguished by its pastel-colored exterior with decorative relief panels. The building houses other enterprises as well, including a yoga studio and the studio for artist Jeff Slim, who painted a literature-themed mural inside the bookstore.

“My biggest motivation for the bookstore was my own life experience,” says Magaña, who recalls her mother coming to America from Mexico and then working hard until the day she died. “My people are a hard-working lot, and deserve places where they can share their culture with their families and neighbors and make connections to enrich each others' lives." 

All are welcome in the space – which will feature art exhibits, language classes, workshops, and other happenings for community members. Regular hours after November 12 will be 1 to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 2 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, with additional hours as needed for special events.

Magaña was inspired to start Palabras after seeing “Librería Donceles,” a Spanish-language bookstore by New York-based artist Pablo Helguera, which took the form of a traveling art installation. Helguera showed the work from March to June of 2014 at ASU’s Combine Studios Project Space in the Roosevelt Row arts district in downtown Phoenix.

She’s been working for the past year on gathering primarily used Spanish-language books, and the collection now features about 7,000 titles. She’s hoping to secure 10,000 titles, and is encouraging people who attend the Grand Avenue Festival to donate books in Spanish and English. She’s also inviting cash donations from people who visit Palabras online or in person to help fund community events.

Moving forward, Magaña will be organizing art exhibitions at Palabras – making it another arts venue in the Grand Avenue district that’s already home to Chartreuse, {9} The Gallery, Grand ArtHaus, Unexpected Art Gallery, and several additional art spaces.

Currently, visitors can see both Slim’s mural and another by local artist Eunique Yazzie, who painted an interactive abstract map of the Southwest. It’s dotted with 27 numbered discs that represent 27 different languages spoken in the region. The discs are attached magnetically, so visitors can remove them and turn them over to see which language they represent and how many people still speak it.

Magaña also hopes to install bilingual little libraries (bibliotecitas), which are freestanding boxes filled with books that rotate as readers add or take them, throughout the community.

It’s all part of Magaña’s drive to honor her mother’s sacrifices.

“If I can help enrich or improve the life of one person, I will know that my mother’s life — the woman who worked until her dying breath to make me who I am, her efforts in this country, her efforts for her family — was not in vain.”

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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble