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BiblioBurro: A New Take On The Mobile Library

abstract:Each weekend Luis Soriano gathers his two donkeys, Alfa and Beto and loads them with books that he takes to villages in nearby towns in Columbia. “I started out with 70 books, and now I have a collection of more than 4,800,” says Mr. Soriano, 36, a primary school teacher who lives in a small house here with his wife and three children, with books piled to the ceilings.His project has won acclaim from the nation’s literacy specialists and is the subject of a new documentary by a Colombian filmmaker, Carlos Rendón Zipaguata. This kind act has made Luis the best-known resident of La Gloria, a town that was the inspiration for the setting of the epic novel of Luis's more famous countryman Gabriel García Márquez, author of “One Hundred Years of Solitude.”


November 04, 2008
I wondered what sorts of books Senior Soriono would travel with? His choices included “Anaconda,” the animal fable by the Uruguayan writer Horacio Quiroga that evokes Kipling’s “Jungle Book”; some Time-Life picture books (on Scandinavia, Japan and the Antilles); and the Dictionary of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language.

Simon Romero of the NYT reports, "The idea came to him, he said, after he witnessed as a young teacher the transformative power of reading among his pupils, who were born into conflict even more intense than when he was a child.

The violence by bandit groups was so bad when he was young that his parents sent him to live with his grandmother in the nearby city of Valledupar, near the Venezuelan border. He returned at age 16 with a high school degree and got a job teaching reading to schoolchildren.

By the time he was in his 20s, Colombia’s long internal war had drawn paramilitary bands to the lawless marshlands and hills surrounding La Gloria, leading to clashes with guerrillas and intimidation of the local population by both groups.

Into that violence, which has since ebbed, Mr. Soriano ventured with his donkeys, taking with him a few reading textbooks, encyclopedia volumes and novels from his small personal library. At stops along the way, children still await the teacher in groups, to hear him read from the books he brings before they can borrow them.

A breakthrough came several years ago when he heard excerpts over the radio of a novel, “The Ballad of Maria Abdala,” by Juan Gossaín, a Colombian journalist and writer. Mr. Soriano wrote a letter to the author, asking him to lend a copy of the book to the Biblioburro.

After Mr. Gossaín broadcast details of Mr. Soriano’s project on his radio program, book donations poured in from throughout Colombia. A local financial institution, Cajamag, provided some financing for the construction of a small library next to his home, but the project remains only half-finished for lack of funds."

Read the entire story at the NYT published Oct 19, 2008.

Take this opportunity to read (or rediscover) One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This is a masterpiece that weaves a semi-fictional story into the history of Colombia's battle for independence. It's a beautiful vision of magical realism that can "literally make you think you have wings."

This book, Masterwork Studies Series - 100 Years of Solitude (Masterwork Studies Series), is an excellent companion to study the multiple dimensions (rather like Animal Farm) that "Solitude" can be examined from.

Also, you might want to learn more about Columbia. I was ashamed to discover that I'd missed knowing the fact that Colombia now houses the third-largest displaced population in the world, with only Sudan and the Congo surpassing. The war against drugs and violence of leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary vigilantes has threatened the extinction of ancient tribal peoples, but President Uribe was reelected with 62% of the vote because of a reduction in paramilitary violence and economic growth.



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