For many years I had a dream of starting a chain of mini-bookstores throughout Latin America. I have spent a lot of long vacations traveling in Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Peru, and I always noticed that tourists like to leave behind their used books. I also noticed that buying books in these countries was very expensive, even by USA standards. One day I found a great little cafe from which I could escape the heat, perhaps in Valladolid, Mexico, where I noticed that the local youths seemed to gather. That is when I began to think how great it would be for a cafe like that to provide books for the people to buy cheaply, and sell back to them in order to purchase more. This, I thought, would provide an economic incentive for the restaurant owner, and also ensure the re-circulation of books throughout the community.
When I first joined Facebook, I thought this would be a perfect forum for discussing my ideas, and perhaps develop an organization for promoting literacy in the manner I had in mind. I started a Facebook Group called “Promoting Literacy in Latin America” and most of my friends joined up, and I also made new friends with similar interests. Strangely, however, I couldn’t get more than three people to post anything. I couldn’t get a discussion started. This was disappointing, but I still thought I would implement my plan at the first opportunity.
My next setback came when I actually started planning my next trip to Mexico. Thats when it dawned on me that tourists, and especially backpackers, don’t want any extra weight to carry—and books are very weighty. While they may carry one or two paperbacks that they are reading, the amount of books necessary to fuel my plan would be too much. I felt my dream dissapating, but I still had respect for it, as my personal belief is that dreams come from God, and are a clue to the future if nothing else. So I kept several boxes of books available for my trip to Mexico.
Living in Tucson, I felt that the most logical town to implement my plan was Magdalena, Mexico, just an hour south of the border. So I drove to the center of Magdalena, parked on the plaza by the church, and walked around looking for candidates. Most of the cafes were small, smoky and serving beer—not the type of place to promote reading in youths. Then I found an ice-cream shop with plenty of room and I approached the lady at the counter with my idea, assisted by a typed and illustrated description I had prepared for that purpose. She liked the idea, but the owner of the shop was not due back for a while, and in the meantime she introduced me to the holistic medicine lady next door. From the herb shop I was directed to another cafe that apparently already was set up to sell books as I had described. Walking a few blocks away, I found Cafe Sed, where I was surprised to find a perfect example of what I had been dreaming of.
I spoke to the manager in charge, who was animated to discover my interest, and spent the next half hour describing the business structure of their operation. Cafe Sed is just one of several operations created to educate and support the youths of three orphanages in the area. You can read about them at these websites: http://www.cvemx.org,
Cafe Sed is a small operation compared to the meat processing business, part of which is located next door. I got a quick tour of how they process organic jerky, and it was quite impressive, the youths were at the meat-stick stuffing stage when I was there. These are all older teenagers getting excellent career knowledge and experience. The operation was spotless, and strictly following high food safety standards. Apparently the whole meat business was designed and developed by an American doctor of meat science, a volunteer and significant donor.
Well, I found a place to donate my books after all. I don’t know what part this experience will play in my future, but I felt that I was led to this organization for a reason. Guess we’ll just wait and see.