The “Lord of Books” is making sure children have access to books.
José Alberto Gutiérrez has been collecting books for 20 years as a garbage collector in Bogotá, Colombia. Gutiérrez might only have a second-grade education but that hasn’t stopped him from recognizing the importance of literacy for the future of Bogota’s disadvantaged youths. According to AP, Bogotá, a city of more than 8 million people has 19 public libraries but they are all located far away from the poorer neighborhoods in the city. The lack of access for children’s books in Gutiérrez’s own neighborhood in south Bogotá convinced him to open his own library from the rescued books he has collected. Gutiérrez credits his love and interest in books to his mother reading to him even though she was not able to afford to keep him in school.
“The first book that I found was ‘Anna Karenina’ by Leo Tolstoy,” Gutiérrez told AJ+. “And that little book set the flame and this snowball that has never stopped rolling.”
This man is legit the Robin Hood of books in Bogotá.
Since finding that first book, Gutiérrez has collected more than 20,000 books.
CREDIT: AJ+ / Facebook
These books were turned into a library filling every room in his house, according to AJ+. The name of the library, The Strength Of Words, of course.
The children in Gutiérrez’s neighborhood are allowed in every weekend to browse, read, and open their minds to new worlds.
CREDIT: AJ+ / Facebook
“This should be in all neighborhoods, on each corner of every neighborhood, in all the towns, in all departments, and all the rural areas,” Gutierrez told AP. “Books are our salvation and that is what Colombia needs.”
Gutiérrez doesn’t see himself as a savior. Instead, he sees himself as a bridge for children in poor neighborhoods in Colombia.
Yesterday saw police in Colombia arrest two people in connection to the death of Orley García, the mayoral candidate for the municipality of Toledo. But the wildest thing is that García isn’t the first mayoral candidate to have been killed this election cycle in Colombia. In fact, he’s actually the sixth.
The most heartbreaking death was that of Karina García.
The 32-year-old was running to be the first female mayor in the rural municipality of Toledo when she was attacked. Following a day of campaigning on September 1, García was returning to her hometown of Suarez when the car she was traveling in was shot at, before being set on fire. Six people died from the attack, including García’s mother, three local activists and a candidate for the municipal council, who were also in the car at the time. According to authorities, a grenade was used in the attack. Somehow, though, García’s bodyguard, who was driving the vehicle, survived.
Before she was killed, Karina reported receiving threats and asked for security.
A reward of almost $44,000 has been offered for information leading to the capture of the dissidents who were responsible for the murder of Karina García, who is survived by her husband and three year old son. It seems like a case of too little, too late, though, as García had already reported to authorities that she was on the receiving end of death threats. It was only in August that four armed men confronted members of her campaign, ordering them to take down banners and posters supporting her candidacy. García took to social media, calling on authorities to protect her and her fellow candidates against harm. “Please, for God’s sake, don’t act so irresponsibly,” she said in a video posted to Facebook on August 24. “This can bring fatal consequences for me.”
Authorities are blaming the killings on FARC rebels.
And just who are FARC? The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, on the most fundamental level, are a guerilla movement that began in 1964. Motivated by Marxist-Leninist leanings, on paper they’re a peasant force that promotes anti-imperialism. However, what this means in practice is that they kidnap, ransom, drug run and extort their way into opposing Colombian authorities and consolidating power. By the time 2016 rolled around though, the group was running out of steam. This led to a ceasefire accord between FARC and the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos. June 2017 saw FARC hand over its weapons to the United Nations.
Yes, FARC legitimized itself legally but several dissidents disagree with that decision.
Obviously, that’s not the end of the story. Despite the peace deal, and despite the fact that FARC had officially announced its transformation into a legal, political party, there are still plenty of dissidents out there who disagree with the change and still operate under the original FARC doctrine. What’s most likely sparked the recent mayoral candidate killings is FARC’s announcement, on Youtube no less, that it’s resorting to violence due to the Colombian government’s failure to comply with the peace agreements from 2016. Of course, Colombian officials heartily disagreed with this statement, and responded with offensive strikes against FARC.
This has basically turned into tic for tac killing.
And the repercussions of the violence and killings are far-reaching. Beyond the devastated friends and family left behind, this also spells trouble for the democratic process in Colombia. Because who’s going to risk running for office, if they’re risking not only their own life, but the lives of their friends, family and coworkers? And who’s going to even consider turning up to vote, when the candidates themselves are being murdered, left, right, and center? It’s hard to conceive of cultural and legislative change in a country where part of what needs to be changed is what’s preventing change in the first place.
The other thing to keep in mind is that this is the exact kind of violence that people are fleeing when they arrive at the US border and make an appeal for asylum.
It’s a legitimate fear: the operation of gangs and cartels negatively impacts on the safety of the citizenry, as well as influencing the way that the entire country can be governed. However, because US legislation under the Trump administration states that asylum seekers cannot be granted refuge against gang violence, it means that these people have no choice but to go back to their country of origin and continue to risk theirs and their family’s lives. Something’s gotta give – otherwise, we’re going to see a lot more deaths at the hands of these gangs.
At this stage, we can only keep our eyes peeled for more news coming out from Colombia, as the elections are to be held October 27, across almost 1,100 municipalities. Unfortunately, with the murder of the sixth mayoral candidate in Colombia, this marks an even more violent election season than that of 2015, which saw the deaths of five mayoral candidates.
Lil’ Libros has been gifting Latino parents the gift of a single children’s book read in two languages to promote bilingualism in Latino niños around the world. The stories are all about Latino icons that have shaped and defined our culture throughout history, honoring stories like Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and Cuban music legend, Celia Cruz. With nearly 20 books in the collection so far, we thought Lil’ Libros couldn’t get any cuter or more relevant until it added the story of Ricardo “Ritchie” Valenzuela in “The Life of / La Vida de: Ritchie.”
The children’s book will cover all the highlights of Ritchie’s life.
“Born May 13, 1941, Ritchie Valens was a Mexican-American singer, songwriter, and guitarist,” reads the book description. “His musical journey began at age 5 when his father encouraged him to take up guitar. In high school, he made his performing debut with the band The Silhouettes. At 17, Ritchie recorded his final record, which included classics like “Donna” and “La Bamba”. That record went on to sell over one million copies. To this day, Ritchie Valens’ music lives on in the hearts of many!”
Ritchie followed his passions, and they became a gift to the music world.
Ritchie is considered the father of the Chicano rock movement. He was the son of two Mexican immigrants, born in the Los Angeles valley as Richard Steven Valenzuela. Even though Ritchie was left-handed, he taught himself how to play the guitar, trumpet, and drums, and was so in love with music, he learned it all with a dominant right hand. He was always bringing his guitar to his high school to play for his friends. By the time he was 16 years old, he was invited to join The Silhouettes, and eventually became the lead singer. He only released two records during his lifetime, and is best known for “La Bamba.” He’s also known for being the first Latino to successfully cross over into the U.S. mainstream rock genre, inspiring Selena, Café Tacuba, Los Lobos, Los Lonely Boys, and even Carlos Santana to fuse Latinidad with rock.
We *doubt* they’ll include that Ritchie dropped out of high school.
He became a raging success with the release of his first and only three records and dropped out of school to keep up with his career. Ritchie actually didn’t know any Spanish, and his family only spoke English and Spanglish in their house. He learned to sing “La Bamba” in Spanish by learning the song phonetically. Just this year, The U.S. Library of Congress selected “La Bamba” to be preserved in the National Recording Registry as “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.”
Or Ritchie’s tragic death by a plane crash at just 17 years old.
Ritchie had a fear of flying that he eventually overcome throughout his short-lived music career. His fear started during the second term of his junior year in high school. Two airplanes collided over the school’s playground on January 31, 1957, killing and injuring several of his friends. It all happened while Ritchie was at his abuelo’s funeral. His first flight was to Philadelphia to appear on Dick Clark’sAmerican Bandstand show, where he performed “Come On, Let’s Go.” The following month, he was flying to Hawaii to perform with Buddy Holly and Paul Anka.
Ritchie won a coin toss that fateful February 2, 1959 winter day in Iowa that won him a spot on a small plane that would later crash and kill everyone on the plane. His band had been traveling by tour bus throughout the Midwest without adequate heating, causing them all to catch the flu and, in one case, even frostbite. They were desperate to get on a flight out, and only the guitarist, Tommy Allsup, and bassist Waylon Jennings were spared, simply because they lost their coin tosses.
Ritchie took off at 12:55 am and crashed just minutes later.
Still, nobody knows why the plane crashed. It killed everyone on impact. Ritchie suffered a blunt force trauma to the chest and unsurvivable head injuries, dying at just 17 years old. His death inspired Don McLean to write “American Pie,” forever remembering February 3 as “The Day the Music Died.” The music may have died by Ritchie’s legacy continues to live on, now in both Spanish and English at storytimes.
Share this story with all of your friends by tapping our little share buttons below!