Teresa Mlawer, one of the most recognized and respected people in the Hispanic publishing industry in the U.S., died March 21 due to cancer. She was 75.
Teresa was an entrepreneur, editor, translator, writer, teacher, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend, and a tireless worker. During the years I worked with her I found that she was the person who taught many of us about the Spanish-language book industry and was not shy about calling us out when missteps were taken. Teresa's soft-spoken voice and impeccable professionalism made you listen, she never minced words, and always encouraged and expected you to do better.
Teresa was born in Havana, Cuba and came to the U.S. in 1962. As noted on her website, Teresa started in a clerical position at Macmillan, and rose to become sales manager for Latin America. From there she moved to vice president at Regents Publishing (a division of Simon & Schuster). In 1976 she was named president of Lectorum Publications, the oldest and largest distributor of Spanish language books in the U.S. which was acquired by Scholastic in 1996 and then bought by Alex Correa and his brother and partner, Luis Fernando in 2009.
While heading Lectorum, Teresa launched a successful publishing program of Spanish and bilingual books for children. As noted on Teresa's website, she negotiated the rights and published the Spanish editions of books written by such esteemed authors as Dr. Seuss, P.D. Eastman, Marc Brown, Ian Falconer, Patricia Polacco, and others. Many of these books were translated by Teresa for the U.S. Hispanic market.
After leaving Lectorum, Teresa launched Teresa Mlawer Publishing Services to provide personal consulting and guidance to companies wishing to enter the Hispanic publishing market. Teresa’s extensive knowledge of children’s and YA publishing industry made her a frequent presenter at global industry conferences and events.
Yanitzia Canetti, a Cuban-born author, translator, and editor residing in Boston, offered this remembrance of Teresa. “I met Teresa in the early 1990s, at a CABE (California Association for Bilingual Education) conference in San Diego. Before that first meeting we had spoken on the phone and worked together on the translation of a book, Amelia Bedelia, published by HarperCollins. Immediately a deep empathy connected us beyond just the fact that we were both Cuban, we worked in the publishing industry, and we were passionate about books. From that day on, we collaborated together on numerous projects and strengthened a bond so deep that I began to feel like she was my mother.”
José Ignacio Echeverria, president of Grupo Iberoamericano de Editores, from Mexico City, shared this memory: “My first meeting with Teresa was in 1986 and it was a rather rigid meeting. Teresa was courteous but cold, which was the opposite of what I expected from a person of Cuban origin. Time passed and we became very good friends. We had much in common; we were both migrants, refugees, and had an immense passion for children’s books. I wish I could live through it again. Goodbye, Teresa, I will miss you very much.”