HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH: Maria Herron celebrates neighbors and culture in the midst of gentrification

Maria Herron
Maria Herron Photo credit Corey Sipkin

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — Bushwick in Brooklyn is a neighborhood filled with Black and Latinx neighbors. Like in so many other neighborhoods that are predominantly Black and Latinx, it's seeing a rise in gentrification.

It is also a neighborhood that lacks accessibility to books.

Mil Mundos is a bookstore Cuban-American Maria Herron founded in 2019. It has given the community access to books they normally don’t have the chance to pick up. It is a place where they can go to feel accepted and learn about their culture.

When coming up with the idea for Mil Mundos, Herron said she “wanted to help rewrite generational memory of our neighborhood.” She wants to help those who are there to remain there despite the buildings she knows those living there will not be able to afford.

“It’s a very Latin neighborhood. It feels very familiar to me,” Herron said when discussing why she chose that neighborhood to live in. “It was something I wanted to invest in financially, but also emotionally.”

Behind the inspiration for the bookstore were comments from her Latin friends and family who said, “Oh bookstores are not for me. That’s like a Manhattan thing.”

Friends would tell Herron “Latin people don’t read.“ Herron’s response was “Then why are there bookstores in Latin American countries?”

“I wanted a bookstore that felt accessible to family members of mine whose friends maybe didn’t feel comfortable going into bookstores in the first place,” Herron explained.

It isn’t just another bookstore where you go in and feel like you have to buy something. Herron said this a place where people can come and browse. It is a place where students from the nearby school that she has done outreach with, can come to explore and learn about where they come from or just learn
about another culture.

Herron describes her childhood as one that surrounded her with books “and the knowledge that they held.” She wants to share that knowledge with the community.

Mil Mundos is a place where Black and Latinx people can go without feeling judged. Whether you speak English, Spanish or Spanglish, Herron has turned it into a place where all are welcomed.

“We have books in English, Spanish, we have books in Spanglish…all sorts of different kinds of Spanish,” Herron said about the bookstore. “There’s not one way to be Latin and there is no one way to speak Spanish.”

Herron added that the bookstore also presents an opportunity for those who do not speak Spanish.

“To those that maybe don’t speak Spanish, those can be two words that they learn, and we can share in each other’s culture and experience a world through alternate lenses,” said Herron.

Mil Mundos means 1,000 Worlds. A perfect name for a bookstore that wants people to “experience a world through alternate lenses.” Herron also works to ensure inclusivity and access for patrons by requiring employees to be bilingual.

The bookstore is something of an ode to Herron's childhood, one that was surrounded by books and knowledge.

“Every book that I picked up was an invite to another world,” Herron said. It is thousands of worlds that she welcomes her community to come and explore.

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