On September 20 of last year, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, killing more than 3,000 people and leaving those on the island without power for months. In response to the devastation, a number of publishing professionals rallied in support of Puerto Rico through the #PubforPR initiative.
Now, as the anniversary of the hurricane coincides with National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15–October 15), Latinxs in Kid Lit, a group devoted to promoting Latinx representation in children’s books, is organizing an auction to benefit people working with Latinx youth both on the island and the mainland.
Latinxs in Kid Lit will purchase books and supplies for three youth groups on the island; any additional funds will go toward Donors Choose projects that benefit Latinx communities. Latinxs in Kid Lit member Sujei Lugo, a Boston librarian who grew up in Puerto Rico, has been working with each of the programs to ensure that funds and items purchased will directly benefit Latinx youth.
Cindy L. Rodriguez, an author and core member of Latinxs in Kid Lit, told PW, “We have spent five years supporting and highlighting children’s books by/for/about the Latinx community. With the anniversary of the hurricane and National Hispanic Heritage Month, we thought it was the perfect time to get some of those books into the hands of Latinx youth. The programs that will benefit from the auction all work directly with Latinx youth, so the money will certainly be well spent.”
The first program to receive aid from the auction is the Environmental Educational Program and Creative Art Therapy in Jayuya, Puerto Rico. Rosaura Rodríguez, who is a Puerto Rican artist and educator and co-founder of Camp Tabonuco, an environmental educational program, offers workshops for youth on creating art therapy and illustrated autobiographical narratives.
The second program that will be supported by the event is La Torre Community Library/Center in Sabana Grande, Puerto Rico. After the only elementary public school in the rural community of La Torre was closed, the school’s sports complex has been repurposed as a community library. Puerto Rican educator and activist Angelo Rivera and several community members have created a nonprofit organization named COSECHA (Centro, Oportunidades, Servicios, Educativos, Comunitarios, Hermandad, Artes, which translates to Center, Opportunities, Services, Educational, Communities, Kinship, Arts) to help facilitate community activities, programs, and library services.
Proceeds from the fundraiser will also go toward La Maleta Cuentera (Storytelling Travel Bag), a social justice literacy project created post-Hurricane Maria that connects children’s literature, activism, and nature. As part of the program, Isamar Abreu Gómez, a Puerto Rican librarian, activist, performer, and storyteller, travels to schools and communities to share stories and activities with children.
To date, 26 authors and illustrators and two agents have committed to participate in the event, which will begin on September 20 and run for one week. The items available for auction include critiques from agents Adriana Domínguez and Linda Camacho; books, original artwork, critiques, and Skype sessions by authors and illustrators such as Francisco X. Stork, Meg Medina, Anna-Marie McLemore, Zoraida Córdova, Carolyn Dee Flores, and Juana Martinez-Neal. In addition to Rodriguez, the organization’s primary members include authors Ashley Hope Pérez, and Lila Quintero Weaver, as well as librarian Sujei Lugo, bookseller Cecilia Cackley, and assistant professor Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez.