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Arts and Culture:
Rueben Martínez
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David Brancaccio interviews Rueben Martínez, who has dedicated his life to encouraging a culture of reading in Spanish-speaking homes.

Rueben Martínez

Rueben Martínez

Rueben Martínez was born in Miami, Arizona, a small mining town in 1940. Both of his parents were miners laboring on different shifts and young Rueben taught himself to read. A professional barber and entrepreneur for more than forty years, Martínez was disturbed by reports that Americans spent little money or time on reading. In 1993, he founded Libreria Martínez Books and Art Gallery, a small business operating out of his barbershop. By 1999, the bookstore had expanded and moved into its own location, and, in 2001, he launched a second venue dedicated to children’s literature. Líbrería Martínez Books is now among the largest commercial sellers of Spanish-language books in the country, serving as the cornerstone of cultural events and community activities that promote the benefits of reading to Hispanic-Americans and Spanish-speaking immigrants. Rueben Martínez is also the co-founder of the Latino Book Festival. The Festival, which now travels to several American cities each year, motivates Spanish-speaking people to value literature, to read for themselves, and to read to their children.

In 2004 Martínez was award the prestigeous MacArthur fellowship, the first ever given to a bookseller. The MacArthur Foundation stated that Martínez "elevated bookselling from a business to a campaign in support of underserved populations. Martínez’ unique brand of entrepreneurship and advocacy is an important complement to institutional and program efforts to enrich and anchor the lives of a large and growing population in America."

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