By: Zoraida Córdova
El Barrio, or East Harlem, is home to La Casa Azul, named after Frida Khalo’s home-turned-museum. Raising “40k in 40 days” through a crowd-funded campaign, Aurora Anaya-Cerda was able to open the doors to the store in June of 2012. It’s encouraging to see that the public is willing to contribute to bring these projects to life. I remember keeping up with the bookstore’s progress on Lucha Libros. From painting to building shelves, it was exciting to know that this kind of indie was coming to a neighborhood that otherwise doesn’t have access to a wide range of Libros Latinos. In a city that is 28.6% Latino, there is a huge need for access to these books.
So, how do you visit? To get to La Casa Azul, take the 6 train to 103rd street in Manhattan. This lets you off onto an area lined with bars, restaurants, bodegas, a botanica, and schoolyards. The neighborhood is also home to El Museo Del Barrio, if you’re in the mood for more art. But first, go to La Casa Azul. Make a left on Lex and a right at a bright blue awning. Down the steps you’re greeted by a gorgeous art installation by Manny Vega. You can see the process of his work here.
Once inside, the bookstore is warm and inviting. Aurora Anaya-Cerda is there with another employee stacking books. Named and inspired by Frida Khalo’s home, La Casa Azul has many references to her that range from paintings, to art books, to art installations. LCA even has its own exhibit/gallery. Their current showcase is called “A Ribbon Around a Bomb,” by Suhaly Bautista, The Earth Warrior. I’m excited to see what the next art display will be.
The great thing that you can see about La Casa Azul, is that it’s not just about the book events, but about community. Take a look at the events calendar for a wide selection of family-friendly music events, book readings and signings, literary conferences, volunteer outreach, and even BYOB paint parties. They recently held a book drive for young immigrant children in New York. In addition to these events, La Casa Azul is available for space rental. Because of all of these things, La Casa Azul is important. I’d like to think that the independent bookstore is making a comeback, despite the threat of the digital age. Sure, you can get a book on your smart device or tablet, but there’s something special about being able to congregate in a safe space that embraces Latino culture.
The next time you’re uptown, stop by and pick up a couple of books.