As we enter Semana Santa and Semana Pasqua— two delicious, nationwide weeks of pausing life’s busy schedule—I’m looking forward to diving into a good novel, and losing myself in the magic of literature. Many years ago, a group of retirees had the inspiration to create Bucerias’ first library. After years of planning and fundraising, they opened the Biblioteca Rey Nayar in 2011 (like many places, including our State, named after King Nayar, who ruled this region in the 1500’s). Seven years later, the library now serves an average of ten to fifteen kids per day, mostly with homework help, but also as a place to gather and read, or join in their ongoing book club!
I lugged a bag of dusty old novels down to the Biblioteca’s annual book sale this week, held poolside at Bungalows Arroyo. Vacationers perused and purchased donated novels, the profits from which fund new Spanish language books for the library. I love the thought of each of those worn mysteries, unrequited love stories, and adventure tales continuing to inspire vacationers while simultaneously sparking a love of reading in our local children. For twenty-five pesos, I bought the entire Chronicles of Narnia to read to my seven-year-old, and thought about the ripple effect on the life of some other seven-year-old we may never meet. The power of the written word, passed from hand to hand, generation after generation, is truly a gift worth preserving in an increasingly digitized world. I spoke with one of the Biblioteca founders, Rita Kollock, who informed me that, sadly, she is the last living member of the original library organizers! Rita’s been collecting, recycling and manifesting literacy in Bucerias for over two decades, and her impact is palpable, even in the way her peers speak of her commitment. I wondered which story it was that first grabbed her; which fictional character had inspired such a deep love of literacy to last a lifetime? Luckily, Rita is not alone in her dedication and is aided by a group of loyal volunteers and staff, ensuring that the library is open year round.
Saturday morning, I found Rosa and Benjamin inside the bright pink Biblioteca, preparing to read with a few kids who seemed genuinely excited to be there on the first day of Spring Break! I also found Donette, who I had met diligently counting pesos at the book sale, now happily organizing books and sweeping up leaves in the front yard, doing whatever necessary to help the library succeed…another victim of great literature. The whole place was delighted to report that the Biblioteca Rey Nayar has again been selected as a beneficiary of the annual International Festival of Altruism, coming to Puerto Vallarta on the 6th of May, 2018. Rosa informed me that the proceeds from last year’s Festival were enough to pay the library’s monthly bills and keep their programs running for an entire year!
Jacqueline Kennedy once said, “There are many ways to enlarge a child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.” If you’d like to enlarge a Mexican child’s world, you can start by attending this year’s Altruism Festival and transform a fun evening into the gift of reading. The Biblioteca also accepts donations of used books to re-sell, and is currently seeking volunteers qualified to teach English to children.