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Few Weeks Left to Check Out Red Hook's Traveling Spanish Bookshop

 Librería Donceles popped up at 360 Van Brunt St. late last month and will remain open till mid-May.
Librería Donceles
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RED HOOK — There are roughly 25,000 books stacked in piles and on shelves throughout a Van Brunt Street shop in Red Hook.

But in less than a month, those books will be shipped across the country.

That’s how Librería Donceles — a travelling bookshop currently stopping at 360 Van Brunt St. — works. The old-fashioned bookshop, created by artist Pablo Helguera, opened late last month and sells only Spanish-language second-hand books.

For the last two years, the used books have traveled to New York, Miami, San Francisco and other cities to supply people with literature written in Spanish.

Helguera, 43, started the initiative in 2013 after returning to his birthplace of Mexico City and collecting books from locals to take back to the United States for people who lack access to Spanish literature.  

“It’s impossible to find books in New York City in Spanish,” said Helguera, who has lived in Red Hook since 2009.

Helguera said that in his experience, Spanish-language books were either very expensive or difficult to find. Some chain bookstores have foreign language sections but they rarely go beyond translated versions of paperback novels, he added.

Librería Donceles carries a wide range of subjects, including fiction and nonfiction, law, politics, medicine, history, astrology and many more. The store also hosts cultural events on Thursday nights called “Tertulia.”

“It’s a space where you want to get lost and let the book find you,” Helguera said.

The store works on a pay-what-you-can model but lets bibliophiles pick up only one book each time they visit the shop.

“I wanted people to really think about the book they’re going to take,” he said.

All proceeds from book sales are donated to partner nonprofits in different cities, and in turn, those organizations help cover rent and the costs of transporting the books from city to city.

“It’s pretty straightforward. It’s like moving your house,” Helguera said.

Libreria Donceles will leave Red Hook on May 15 and head to Seattle, he said.

After Seattle, Helguera plans to complete the project in Chicago, and possibly disseminate the books in the city.

“It’s something that I would love to continue forever,” he said. “Maybe I’ll find a way to continue it, or maybe not.”