Around the world, women understand that caring is both personal and individual, on one hand, a global, on the other. They understand that there must be person-to-person caring, intimate relationships that are also connected, intimately, to large issues and larger campaigns for justice and well being. Meet Aurora Anaya-Cerda and Isabel Martínez, two women who refused to be haunted and insist that a better world is possible, right here, right now.
Aurora Anaya-Cerda is the founder and owner of La Casa Azul Bookstore, in East Harlem, open as a brick and mortar enterprise since 2012. Here’s how Anaya-Cerda describes the project: “In the height of the economic meltdown of 2008, Aurora Anaya-Cerda founded La Casa Azul Bookstore, an online resource promoting children’s literature, educational programing and literature by Latino writers. In the Fall of 2011, Aurora ran the ’40K in 40 days’ campaign and successfully crowdfunded for La Casa Azul Bookstore. With the financial backing of 500 funders – La Casa Azul Bookstore opened in El Barrio on June 1, 2012.”
When Anaya-Cerda heard and read about the child migrants coming into the United States, and way too often into detention centers, she immediately leapt into action. She contacted her close friend, Isabel Martínez, who teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and runs the Unaccompanied Latin American Minor Project, U-LAMP: “U-LAMP (Unaccompanied Latin American Minor Project) focuses on providing academic support to recently arrived immigrant minors, or newcomers, who are presently in deportation proceedings. Working in conjunction with Safe Passage Project, U-LAMP interns (all CUNY students) work with the youth and their families to assist with finding proper educational programs in New York City including traditional and alternative educational services as well as social support.”
Anaya-Cerda and Martínez decided that one thing the children newcomers would both want and need would be age- and language-appropriate books. Along with age and language, the two paid close attention to situation and context. Children in immigration detention don’t necessarily want books about being migrants and being in detention. To the contrary, they want books about being and becoming. They want the same books all children their age, across the country, want.
And so they have organized a book drive for the kids. They set a goal for how many books they hoped to send, and that goal was far exceeded. They set a goal for how much money they hoped to raise to ship the books, and that goal was far exceeded. Each book has a project name plate, so that each child knows the book is hers. Each book is accompanied by a personal note from someone somewhere, someone touched by the situation of these 90,000 children and by the project. Those cards came out of community education forums organized by Anaya-Cerda and Martínez.
This is neither a big nor a little story. It’s not about the scale, it’s about the doing, the making it happen. As Anaya-Cerda explained, “That’s what you do. It’s really part of what you do. Our resources, collectively, is what made it happen.” Part of what you do is who you are. As Martínez notes, “My grandmother was a 15-year-old pregnant teenager when she crossed in 1918, and if she hadn’t crossed, I wouldn’t be here. This is part of the story of the United States.”