Good thing Ana Bustinduy and Carlos Lorenzo didn´t shy away from following their dream—living in a bookstore. They are celebrating their one year anniversary since they opened their bookstore La Libre in Barranco.
A cozy, white building, La Libre is located just a few blocks from Parque Barranco. The first feature worthy of noting is the front outdoor corridor that doubles as a patio with two tables ornamented with flowers—a perfect and sunny reading nook. Everything in white, the bookstore is not lacking in brightness and life from its shelves chock-full of books (and cans of beans), walls covered in posters, artistic zines, and new and loyal customers.
I had visited La Libre for the first time a few days after its opening, when it was just beginning to fill its shelves. Since then, the additions of books, the activities and the warmth have exploded.
La Libre shortly before opening last year. (Photo: Facebook/La Libre de Barranco)
La Libre is separated off into three sections. The front or head of the store holds the growing library, the body carries the weight of their book collection, and the butt of the store has still more books and a meeting space. They’ve also opened up a long hallway covered in art exhibitions which leads to a second meeting/conference area in the back of the building, which doubles as their home.
In reality, living in the back of the bookstore building was not always part of their life plan, but it has worked out nicely for the Spanish couple. “It´s a dream! We travel, and the terrible thing about being a migrant is that you can not carry your books with you,” expressed Ana.
Having books in the shop that they used to own “is like seeing old friends” said Carlos. To leave the current economic crisis in Spain, they moved from Madrid about two years ago to settle in Lima.
La Libre’s enticing window display of a diverse menu of books. (Photo: Facebook/La Libre de Barranco)
Despite the doubt that comes with nearly any venture dealing with books and intellectual pursuits these days, they dove into the challenge. Passing off jokes that they should have a copy machine to double as a copy store to make money, Ana and Carlos persevered.
In Barranco, however, the feedback has been more than welcoming. Not a day has gone by that a customer, local neighbors, or passers-by come into the store with an idea, books to donate, or enthusiasm for their store.
Ana, excited about children’s books. (Photo: Facebook/La Libre de Barranco)
On this occasion of their anniversary I asked Ana and Carlos a few questions:
1. How was your first year with La Libre? How you do you feel?
HAPPY! We weren’t expecting a year with so much love from so many people that are coming to congratulate us. It has been a year that has gone quickly, with many things. There have been many emotions, many initiatives, many activities…and we hope that it continues. We are sure that it couldn’t have been like this without all the people that have participated, suggesting workshops, video projections, book presentations, conversations…and for everyone that has supported the library.
2. What do you remember of your first day with La Libre?
That it was very sunny and we were very nervous. We had not thought very well how to set up the books so that they could be standing, so we had to run out to buy cans of beans to keep them up. They’re still there, because now they have become part of the identity of La Libre. We didn’t know if people we’re going to enter, which book would be the first book…We remember that it was a collection of poems of Victoria Guerrero, Documentos de Barbarie. For this we have so much love, she is an extraordinary poet.
3. What have been the highlights of the year?
The amount of amazing people that we have met, for example the girl who was a mariner and bought El Capitán de Los Cielos Intermedios, by Fito Espinosa, because she said it was her life. Also to see the children growing, they would come with their grandmothers or mothers when they were babies and after a year…they’re walking! Of activities there are too many to chose. But we loved the conversation about Anarcoamor with Gabriela Wiener, Jaime Rodriguez Z. and Rocío Bardají. It was a very original conversation, very honest, talking about the different kinds of love with a ton of people that came to La Libre to converse. We had a great time.
4. Plans for the future?
To look for more books! We want to increase the selection of independent publishers with some from Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, Colombia…they are doing very interesting things and we would love to have them and distribute them. We also want to broaden the selection of feminist books, hidden books, these precious and curious ones that we get excited about.
5. What has been the hardest part?
A bookstore is a very particular kind of store. It is not economically a marvelous kind of store, one would say. There are a lot of intermediaries, and the margins are very small. The price of the books hurts us sometimes when they are in excess, and it is very difficult to manage, fortunately the publishers are betting on more prints in Peru and the prices are becoming more fair. We have also lived through complicated moments with the robberies, but the solidarity of the people, and the desire that this country change, are big, and so we hope that the difficult times don’t become common.
6. What has changed the most since you opened?
We always have more books, and we have gotten to know the more frequent readers better…but in reality one year is a short amount of time. We feel that we are very new in this.
7. They say that having a bookstore isn’t a good business, but it seems like La Libre has been a complete success. For you, what are the reasons for why you’ve broken the rules of opening a bookstore?
It has been a success in the amount of love we have received from the public, by word of mouth, people that know us….But there is much ahead of us still!
8. What have been the most popular books? The most sold books?
The most sold book has without a doubt been La Sangre de la Aurora, by Claudia Salazar. It’s an excellent novel, and it has functioned by word of mouth, the people come looking for it because when you read it, it shakes you and you recommend it. We have been really happy because it is an essential book. We have also sold a lot of Memorias de la cárcel de mujeres, by Nawal Saddawi, a marvelous Egyptian feminist. In poetry, Javier Heraud, Luis Luis Hernández, Carmen Ollé…and a lot of queer and LGBTI essays, we believe that there has been a real strong demand for these themes. We are very happy because the most sold books have been books that we love a lot. So we believe that it is because the people have confidence in us…no one has ever asked for their money back!
One of La Libre’s trademarks is it’s sassy sign that sits on the sidewalk to bring in curious passers-by. (Photo: Facebook/La Libre de Barranco)
This weekend La Libre is celebrating their one year anniversary and they’re inviting the public to come and join. This Sept. 26 and 27, Saturday and Sunday, they will have discounts, artistic guests Teatro Madero, among other activities.
Avenida San Martin 144, Barranco
First anniversary celebrations: Sept. 26-27
Take a look at a year of La Libre!
(YouTube: 365 días de La Libre)