Here in the Central Valley of California, we are fortunate to have Artes de Americas , a museum whose mission is to make Central California a flourishing place for Latino arts. For the past few weeks, a number of REFORMA de Fresno* members Josie Bustos, Aideed Medina, Armando “Luie”Garcia, Ivan Calimano, Sandra Rios Balderrama and muralists AnnaCardoza and Priscila Torres, have worked tirelessly to build an altar to celebrate the life and legacy of Pura Belpre. It is now on display through November 19th as part of the 30th annual Dia de los Muertes exibit. Visit REFORMA de FRESNO’s Facebook page to get a sneak peek at the altar and other community events that REFORMA de Fresno has recently sponsored.
The life of Pura Belpre inspires all REFORMA members. You can learn more about her in this NPR story about How NYC’s First Puerto Rican Librarian Brought Spanish to the Shelves.
Or read about her in this beautiful bilingual picture book:
The Storyteller’s Candle – La Velita de los Cuentos
by Lucia Gonzalez (author) and Lulu Delacre (illustrator)
Picture Book ages 4-8
Lee and Low 2012
The Storyteller’s Candle tells the story of Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian at the New York Public Library. Pura Belpré understood the difficulties faced by recent immigrants from Puerto Rico. She reached out to the children by visiting their classrooms and inviting them to come to the library. Told through the perspective of Puerto Rican cousins, Hildamar and Santiago, the story shows how Pura Belpré welcomed the immigrant community and made sure that they understood that libraries are for everyone, including non-English speakers. She encouraged the children’s parents and neighbors to visit the library where the entire community became involved in a celebration for the Festival of the Three Kings.
Fittingly, The Storyteller’s Candle is written in both Spanish and English. The book includes information about the influx of Puerto Ricans to New York during the depression who left their island home to seek jobs. It also elaborates on the life of Pura Belpré who was not only a librarian but a storyteller, puppeteer, author, and advocate for the Spanish speaking community of New York City. She continues to be an inspiration for children’s librarians who endeavor to encourage a lifelong love of reading and learning in all children.
In 1996, the American Library Association established an award named after Pura Belpré. It is presented each year to a Latinx author and an illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA. The Storyteller’s Candle received Pura Belpré Honor Awards for both the author and illustrator.