This Latina's Mobile Bookstore is Bringing Bilingual Books to Latinx Communities

Irina Gonzalez
·6 mins read
This Latina's Mobile Bookstore is Bringing Bilingual Books to Latinx Communities
This Latina's Mobile Bookstore is Bringing Bilingual Books to Latinx Communities

From Oprah Magazine

A Kenyan safari guide. A Hollywood costume designer. A world-traveling sommelier. In this series, we learn about the journeys people take to land the ultimate Dream Jobs.

For many Latinos living in the U.S., being bilingual is a real challenge. Cultural norms and the pressure to assimilate can often mean a loss of (or lack of) Spanish. But for Davina A. Ferreira, the founder of Alegría Bilingual Media + Publishing, bilingualism isn't just her work—it's part of her life's mission to bring the beauty of Latinx culture to the masses.

Her dedication to bilingualism first began with the launch of a monthly bilingual magazine and online platform, ALEGRÍA Magazine, followed by the publication of her first book, Take Me With You/Llévame Contigo, a bilingual compilation of short stories and poems about love.

Now, her mission has continued with the Alegría Mobile Bookstore, which aims to bring books by Latinx writers, poets, and thinkers into the hands of younger generations in Los Angeles' at-risk neighborhoods. The bright yellow van has books for adults and kids alike; those visiting the bookstore can either purchase books, or receive one of the free children's books that Ferreira and her team give away.

"It has been a tremendous success in our Latinx community in Los Angeles where we are constantly inviting colleagues and underserved schools to bring their kids to our bookstore," she says. They also give creative writing seminars "to inspire children and youth to read and write."

These days, due to the pandemic, the Alegría Mobile Bookstore has also included a virtual Latinx bookstore, where people can order the books they like, and Ferreira is continuing her mission to give away books to kids in need. For instance, she recently partnered with the organization Spanish sin Pena to give books to the sons and daughters of farmworkers. The mobile bookstore's current section includes local poets and emerging Latinx writers, as well as Nobel Prize winners such as Gabriel García Màrquez. They've also recently added a special collection of African American literature that includes local and emerging poets, as well as works by icons like Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, and Sonia Sànchez.


"For me, it has been a huge mission to show the world that Latinos are educated, we are vibrant, we are sophisticated, we are dynamic, and that we have all this culture and heritage that is so valuable to share," Ferreira tells OprahMag.com. "With the mobile bookstore, I really wanted to bring all this literature to the streets to make it accessible to everyone, no matter where you come from."

Ferreira admits that, when she first had the idea for a mobile bookstore, she imagined adults like her would enjoy it. But when it launched, "we put it on the road, and kids got excited about it."

After that, she made sure that the mobile bookstore was stocked with plenty of bilingual children's books. "Parents love the experience of being able to teach their kids something about their culture," she says. "It's really beautiful to see parents with their kids connecting over a work of literature that maybe they experienced when they were young. And it incentivizes their children to read in English and Spanish, so it makes for a really beautiful cultural bonding experience for parents."

Born in Miami and growing up in Colombia, Ferreira is the epitome of the immigrant American Dream. She credits much of her success as an entrepreneur to her love of the arts and her passion for "inspiring women to pursue their dreams." "I have always been a book nerd," she says.

Her immigrant story began at age 17, when a relative living in California offered to let her come stay and study English. She left her hometown of Medellín, Colombia, without knowing a word of English, and left behind everyone and everything she had loved in her young life. A year into living in the U.S., she set her sights on attending college. While in community college, she worked two jobs while also receiving financial aid. Eventually, although she admits it "took a little longer," she completed her college education by graduating with honors from the University of California, Irvine.

Though it all, Ferreira continued to pursue her love of reading and writing, which first began during "one of the most violent times in history" as she grew up in Colombia in the 1990s "under the domain of Pablo Escobar."

"I took refuse in creative writing, poetry, and reading to deal with the chaos taking place," she recounts of her tumultuous youth. "During those times, bombs would detonate almost every day and literature was a world where I felt safe and where I got lost in imaginary worlds."

After finishing college, she continued to work (at the time, as a receptionist in Beverly Hills) and educate herself until a mentor invested in her dream of creating a bilingual platform for Latinx creatives. And that's how Alegría was born.

Ferreira's love of the written word has continued for the last nine years of her business' existence, and led to Alegría Publishing's latest project. In 2020, despite the pandemic, Ferreira has continued her increasing visibility for bilingual work by publishing 30 new books by Latinx writers from all over the U.S. under Alegría Publishing, with the goal of increasing representation in the book publishing industry. Most of the writers were found through Alegria's digital platforms and social media accounts. In fact, the first poetry contest the company ever held resulted in The LatinX Poetry Project (more below!) and connected Ferreira to over 150 Latinx writers from all over the U.S.

In addition to 30 books—ranging from poetry collections to memoirs to fiction to children's books—Ferreira's company is launching two poetry anthologies that unite brown and Black voices alike: The LatinX Poetry Project, which you can pre-order on Alegría's website, and The Afro LatinX Poetry Project. Ferreira has also just published her third book, her first collection of poems titled, If Love Had a Name, which raises funds to support women of color who are struggling with mental health issues through AmanecerLA.org.

Whether it's helping young kids discover a love of reading or welcoming more Latinx voices into the publishing industry, Ferreira has no plans to slow down. Eventually, she hopes to bring mobile bookstores to Latinx communities across America. "I hope to incorporate some sort of mobile bookstore initiative in different cities and bring this message of bilingual storytelling and creative writing to underserved communities all over the country."

If there is one thing that Ferreira believes, it's that there is "so much power in each one of us to tell our stories." Through books, she says, we can connect with our roots and connect with people. And for her, that's the power of telling our own stories. Our own bilingual stories, that is.

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