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Tuesday, 21 October 2008

El biblioburro

In many parts of the world, mobile libraries--vehicles like buses or trailers, converted to store and transport books--bring reading material to people who would otherwise have no access to it. In northern Colombia, the region near the country's Caribbean coast made famous in Gabriel García Márquez's novels, a teacher named Luis Soriano has found his own way to share books with readers in small library-less villages. From Simon Romero's story in the New York Times:

In a ritual repeated nearly every weekend for the past decade here in Colombia’s war-weary Caribbean hinterland, Luis Soriano gathered his two donkeys, Alfa and Beto, in front of his home on a recent Saturday afternoon.

Sweating already under the unforgiving sun, he strapped pouches with the word “Biblioburro” painted in blue letters to the donkeys’ backs and loaded them with an eclectic cargo of books destined for people living in the small villages beyond.

And the perils of this kind of roving librarianship?

Two years ago, Mr. Soriano said, bandits surprised him at a river crossing, found that he carried almost no money, and tied him to a tree. They stole one item from his book pouch: “Brida,” the story of an Irish girl and her search for knowledge, by the Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho.

“For some reason, Paulo Coelho is at the top of everyone’s list of favorites,” said Mr. Soriano, hiding a grin under the shade of his sombrero vueltiao....

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