La Voz Latina - Su puente a la comunidad Hispana de Georgia y Carolina del sur

The Urbano Project & Libreria Donceles: A Blueprint Worth Emulating

  • Stella Aguirre McGregor. Urbanoproject.org
  • Dentro de la Librería Donceles. Foto por Catherine Rendón.

Colombian artist and community organizer, Stella Aguirre McGregor, established Proyecto Urbano in 2009 in Jamaica Plains, Boston.  The space is a fabulous one near the JP Brewery Complex on Germania Street in an “up and coming” part of Boston. 
Here, students, artists, community organizers and citizens meet for workshops and a variety of educational exchanges.  They also find a space in which to surround themselves with iconic posters from Latin America, print making, poetry readings and books. For Aguirre McGregor, art is a catalyst for social change.  To this end she has been working with youths and communities for over 25 years in Macedonia, New Orleans, Taiwan and Boston.
The on-going theme since the summer of 2016 has been  “The Commons/The Other” which addresses themes of racial, ethnic, cultural and urban identity and representation  found in the neighboring Egleston and Jackson Square neighborhoods.  One of their goals is to achieve inter-group tolerance and understanding in a broader civic culture. To this end the Urbano Project has spearheaded creative activism projects  which include art installations, individual and collective art projects in a variety of settings and activities which include sculptor and political activism.
Most recently, Aguirre McGregor, invited fellow artist Pablo Helguera to bring his eclectic collection of books, known as the Libreria Donceles to Boston. This itinerant bookshop, which was conceived by New York-based Mexican artist and curator, Pablo Helguera, is more than an installation or museum piece: it is a trampoline for creativity and happiness. By selling his own art and using Kickstarter, Helguera amassed over 25,000 used books in Spanish ranging from classics (from the Iberian peninsula to Tierra del Fuego) to children’s literature, culinary arts, economic and scientific treatises as well as art history.  These have been available to readers in a number of U.S. cities (from Chicago to L.A.) and allowed bilingual individuals and others to immerse themselves in the wealth of literature in the Spanish language. There are few bookstores that cater to Spanish readers and speakers, and fewer yet, that offer such a rich offering of second-hand books.  Readers can pay what they can afford and take any book they choose. 
The Libreria Donceles is named after a busy street in Mexico City that is famed for its bookstalls where bibliophiles and curious readers can poke around pamphlets and books like characters from a Borges story and step into brave new worlds.  Boston’s Urbano Project is the last stop of this 4-year-long project, which will come to an end this March and has offered an installation-rich setting for community events and private communion with culture.
February events brought an homage to Puerto Rico’s illustrious poet, Julia de Burgos, (1914-1953) on the anniversary of her birth. Singer/songwriter,  Fernandito Ferrer offered a concert inspired by the Nueva Trova, protest music classics from the 1970s and still vital in today’s music scene. Ferrer’s style has been compared to that of  Tracy Chapman, Ani DI Franco, Nick Drake, Antonio Caban Vale and Silvio Rodriguez.
In March, the Urbano Project had a books arts workshop and book launch/bilingual story slam with author, Suzanne Skees. This not only examined immigrant stories but the work individuals do around  the world to survive or earn their living. Finally, Sara Rivera and Denise Delgado organized a book arts  workshop within the Libreria Donceles  where they experimented and created one of a kind altered books from the library’s own collection.
Other cities should emulate a space like the Urbano Project and try to establish a “third space” where a community of speakers and learners can explore new ideas and approaches to their lives.  One hopes that cultural hubs like these will foster future generations of urban leaders, well-rounded citizens and artists.
La Voz Latina offers a poem by Eucaris Jiménez, a young Dominican poet who also works at the bookstore, as a testament to the importance and vitality of art in every day life.

Issue Month: 
Tuesday, April 4, 2017