Melrose (as is the rest of the South Bronx) is a literary wasteland. Why? Because big name stores like Barnes and Noble, refuse to open stores in the neighborhood claiming, in not so harsh words, that we're too stupid and poor to support a store. Yet, local residents have to either trek to Bay Plaza, Westchester or Manhattan to get their book fix on.
Enter Coqui Mexicano, the local Puerto Rican and Mexican fusion shop which is more than just an eatery but a cultural gem of Melrose. Danisha Nazario, the coqui half of Coqui Mexicano and local resident and homeowner was frustrated at the lack of such basic services like bookstores. Out of this frustration came a true labor of love: A free literary project which provides residents with an opportunity to browse hundreds of books and take what they like - for free.
Coqui Mexicano is a registered member of a project called BookCrossing which is a self-described "World Library". It is the social network of books. You can create an account, register a book and "release" it into the wild. Through BookCrossing you can track your donated book and its journeys, reviews, etc. (pretty much like the wheresgeorge.com project of dollar bills).
To date, Coqui Mexicano has contributed over 500 books as part of this free community library since they began in January of 2009 and in these harsh economic times, a penny earned is a penny saved.
This is what Coqui Mexicano has to say about this endeavor:
"On top of wanting to own a business for the first time, we also wanted to make a difference in the neighborhood. Reading should not be a luxury and that is why we have started a bookcrossing in our establishment. Books can be expensive and during these hard times....why should we not learn how to share with each other, learn from each other, enjoy each other, and interact with each other?
We wanted a business that offered fresh food, culture, cleanliness,music, and a spot where people from different cultures, different ethnicities, differnet walks of life, different social circumstances felt comfortable enough to come together and interact with each other with the hopes that eventually we can all see that we have more in common with each other than we have differences.
We got obsessed with the particular location we are in now. The previous owner just didn't care about anything and it showed! We felt it just dragged down the whole surrounding area which has had a bad reputation for many years with no one to prove that reputation otherwise. The area cried for VIDA and that's what we wanted to contribute to it....VIDA!
Because we are humble people of the neighborhood who are of meager means......what we can offer at our establishment at this moment is very limited.....BUT....it is clean....and it is fresh.
We hope that with your help we can get on our feet and expand to realize this dream!"
-from Coqui Mexicano's profile on BookCrossing.
So if you're in the mood for some good books, check out their collection by either going to the store (and don't forget to try their scrumptious food) or you can simply go to their profile on bookcrossings and browse the list from the comfort of your own home (sans guava cake, flan, flancocho, ricanized cous-cous or any of there dozens of tasty dishes).
Also, before throwing out your books, please consider DONATING them to Coqui Mexicano so that they can in turn share them with those less fortunate at absolutely no cost.
Here's a big welcome2melrose THANK YOU for Coqui Mexicano's continued success in providing us with a quality establishment that gives back to our community.