Remembering Donceles with Claudia Nuñez de Ibieta

ABOG Fellow Pablo Helguera’s project, Librería Donceles, a non-profit itinerant bookstore of twenty thousand used Spanish-language books and accompanying programming, had its first iteration in New York City in 2013, and has gone on to make stops in Phoenix and San Francisco in 2014. Pablo’s ABOG Fellowship will help him bring the project back to his own neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn, in 2015.

We were first introduced to Claudia Nuñez de Ibieta in a report Pablo sent us about the project’s time in Phoenix. We were so moved by her words and her experience that we asked her if she would be willing to have us publish her thoughts here. Learn about Librería Donceles in her own words, below.

I remember the museum’s announcement, a few months ago, regarding an installation: an interesting, intriguing invitation. A bookstore as the artwork? As gem, rarity, antiquity? As movie set, as time machine? To open the door of the space and enter Donceles for the first time was like entering a home, a warm home built of books, a relaxing space. Donceles drew me inside with the sincere embrace of an old, beloved bookshop. I was instantly reassured: books are not the past, even when they’re old or worn; they are, still, living art.

And, book lovers are romantic people who vibrate to words and to the music of paper; in Donceles, these are in the air, surrounding you, whispering to you. The curator, Julio [Cesar Morales], a warm and charming host, immediately receives you and makes you a part of Donceles. The art students, greeting visitors and guests, also welcomed us in…And this is how our book group was invited to hold one of our monthly conversations in Donceles. However, one meeting was not enough: such was our pleasure at gathering in Donceles that we wanted to inhabit the space as much as we could.

We celebrated our May and June meetings there; the memory will become part of our history. We call our group “La tertulia de la literatura hispana” (something like “The Hispanic Literature Club”), and, as our name indicates, we read and discuss books in Spanish, choosing from a range of voices and works from around the Spanish language world, from the verses of Neruda and the worlds of Gabo — Gabriel García Márquez — to the novel voices of Falcones, Dueñas and Allende. We started meeting at our local independent bookstore, in Tempe, Arizona, nine years ago, and made it our place. When Donceles came to Phoenix, it was as if someone had built a home thinking especially of us.

With all my heart, from our entire group, thank you for bringing this beautiful space, this fabulous idea, to our city; it has allowed so many encounters between people and words, so many events and moments of dialogue and creativity, so many connections. Personally, I enjoyed not only bringing our group there, but also the other events I was able to attend at Donceles. The physical dimensions of the space only strengthened that certain quality of experience — closeness — that is so vital when shared. Whether the event at Donceles was a reading or a recital, the voice of the book or other instrument easily filled the space, touching everyone present, causing all to vibrate to the sounds that books inspire.

Sincerely, in friendship,

Claudia Nuñez de Ibieta
July 2014
Tempe, Arizona


Claudia Nuñez de Ibieta works at an independent bookstore; from her home office, she reads, writes and translates. She founded the Hispanic Literature book group, “La tertulia de la literatura hispana” in Tempe, Arizona, where she resides.

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