The Shipyard — A Bookstore in Coahuila, Mexico
Torreón is an industrial city situated in the Chihuahuan Desert.
Here it hardly rains, here it only rains dirt.
History has seen Torreón affected by the violence stemming from the conflict between drug traffickers taking place throughout much of Mexico.
Many restaurants, cafes and nightclubs have closed and much of the central part of the city has become almost a ghost town. It was becoming a city that only accumulated the mutilated and missing. Insecurity permanently lives here even if the shootings and deaths have been reduced, or maybe it is that the newspapers and the news have stopped reporting them.
In August 2014, in exactly the central part of the city that was languishing, an independent bookstore named El Astillero Librería opened.
Despite the unfavorable situation that existed, many residents worked together and created an event that takes place every month in the center of the city called “Moreleando,” this movement just had its 2 year anniversary and it tries to revive life in the city, to reclaim streets that violence snatched. Each month we residents take over a street called Morelos where we assemble local and artisan merchants, food, street theatre, outdoor readings, bands, outdoor painting exhibitions among many other activities. People come by on bikes, roller skates and with their pets. On this street is precisely where the storefront and offices of the El Astillero bookstore are located.
The El Astillero bookstore is open Monday-Saturday from 10am- 8pm. It was started by 5 coworkers that publish the literary magazine Palabracadabra and make up Amanuense Editorial, an independent publisher that also offers editorial services such as manuscript editing, author rights and general publishing consulting. The team of 5 consists of Ruth Castro, Édgar González, Fernando de la Vara, Germán Cravioto and Aleida Belem Salazar. They are young, they are writers, they are artists.
Ruth Castro, the director of the publishing house that I work at originally had the idea to open a bookstore. She invited those of us that have worked together with her for a few years to participate as we are a team (as well as friends) and were already constantly setting up literary events, exhibitions, lectures, presentations, etc… and the bookstore was born not only as a place where books would be sold, but as a project to promote reading because we offer writing workshops, book clubs focused on reading and critical thinking, storytelling for children, film workshops, book presentations, author readings, etc… and for this new year that is starting  we plan to hold more workshops regarding short stories, poetry and creative writing. And of course, it is also a bookstore where books by authors and independent publishers from not only Mexico but also from Spain and the United States are sold. We hope to gradually represent more independent publishers and we now have books that are not found in the large chain bookstores in Mexico, in many cases we are the only store that physically sells them in Mexico.
The beginning of 2015 also marks the start of a new endeavor by one of the five, Aleida Belem Salazar. She has founded a small independent press called Stillness & Blood Press that focuses on publishing poetry books that include illustration. She has already published some digital and print broadsides and these first months of 2015 will see full length books by poets from Venezuela, Argentina, Spain as well as local Torreón and Mexican poets such as Berenice Vázquez. Many of these collections will be bilingual (Spanish/English).
My start with books was awkward. I was 18 when my reading started to take shape. Before then, I read very little because we did not have money to buy books and the libraries were far from my house. When my interest grew and became almost a vice, writing became the consequence. I started by writing poems, obviously very bad and then I tried to write stories because I thought that was what it meant to write. But it was not a genre where I felt comfortable so I returned to poetry and began to attend workshops and also read a lot of poetry. Since then, I am most passionate about poetry.
I am currently reading the poetry of my contemporaries from my own country and other countries. I am very interested in what they are doing or creating. In my city, I enjoy the narrators, for example Vicente Alfonso is my favorite. In Mexico I like a lot Cristina Rivera Garza, Sara Uribe, Esther M. García, David Meza, Xel-Ha López, Jesús Alberto Carmona and Martín Rangel. From other parts of the world, I like de fuera Chantal Maillard, Elena Medel, Natalia Litvinova, Luna Miguel, Pablo Romero, Reinaldo Arenas and many more that are currently escaping me. Now, I am reading and fascinated by the words of Edmond Jabès.
El Astillero bookstore is one example of how the independent publishing / bookstore community can and is thriving throughout other parts of the world. It is an experiment in its infant stages, but is it a bold experiment and one that is more than worth supporting. If you find yourself in Torreón, stop in. But for the rest of us not in the area, even just sending them a message via their website or a tweet or FB message of encouragement to show some love is something that can go a long way.
All bookstore related photos are used with permission of El Astillero Bookstore. Other images used with permission of Stillness & Blood Press.