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Mil Mundos, un pedazo de home in Bushwick

By Manuel Ortiz

We met with Anto at 10 am outside of Mil Mundos. A bilingual bookstore and community center that curates to celebrate Black, Latinx, and Indigenous heritage. Also, our first partner in this adventure we called La Revista.


Tzami Rios, one of the cofounders of Mil Mundos, arrived on a bike and opened up Mil Mundos for us, and literally I felt we were transported to a barrio in Mexico, or Chile, or Peru… or home.


We sat down and chatted, we jumped from Spanish to English and everything in between. Tzami told us the story of the bookstore and (maybe more central to their mission) the community center, since their story is deeply ingrained with the Bushwick community. 


So it made perfect sense that when Anto and I were ready to ask the questions we had prepared for this interview, Tzami said “Let me share these questions with la colectiva and I’ll share with you their answers”. 


Here is me, trying to tejer las respuestas de la Colectiva and their story.


The idea for Mil Mundos Books came about in the Fall of 2018, when construction for newer, over-priced housing was finally spilling over Myrtle Ave into eastern Bushwick, and new businesses in the area were popping up catering primarily to those moving into said housing. But, what about the community of folks already living in this barrio? Does your community still feel like your own, when you are surrounded by constant work being done to your neighborhood, none of which seems to be for you?


How does being a bilingual bookstore contribute to social justice?

It’s all about access and community. Access to literature and access to community. Mil mundos is a space where we can speak both english and spanish and spanglish. Access to advocacy. Access to knowledge to be able to take action or become empowered. Access to conversations about identities.


What does the word community mean to you?

Intersections. Respect. Family. Working together. Mutual support. Sharing resources. Building relationships.


What's your relationship to the neighborhood where you live? 

Mil Mundos relationship with our neighbors is strengthened by our language, Spanish and cultures. Tiendita aims to be a safer space, it is in our values and culture to encourage Bushwick residents to speak Spanish and spanglish. It is in our culture to encourage one another across our intersections and empower It is in our culture to appreciate each of our community members and their identities- encouraging one another at our intersections and across our differences. 


Mil Mundos Books is currently the only bookstore in Bushwick east of Myrtle Ave, with titles on the shelves available side by side in English and Spanish - the dominant language spoken in Bushwick. 


What do you think is the biggest challenge faced by Latines artists/ creatives in the States?

Over homogenized identity. We all have different identities and intersections that get lost under “latinidad.” Our individual stories become overshadowed. 


Art, as an institution, is a world that working class brown artists have been excluded from historically. Art as a “productive” practice is often seen by society as “not a job.” Jobs in which artists (of all identities) can do art are often restricted to that partnership, are temporary positions, and limited in quantity. They hardly exist. Now, throw on top of that the multitude of systemic oppressions that each Latine artist experiences because of their race/ethnicity, gender, immigration status, health, etc. and you can see the barriers that we face. We end up working 3 jobs, volunteering to run collectives, and neglecting our practice a little bit so that we can make rent and work on creating the mundos that value us beyond our productivity.   


What are your favorites Chilean authors available at Mil Mundos?

Isabel Allende. Roberto Bolaño. Pablo Neruda. 


Tell us about a Latine artist you guys work with that you think should be portrayed in La Revista.

Lu and Mariquitx are two artists that are a part of Mil Mundos. They have contributed to the infrastructure, programming, and services of la colectiva since 2019. In the past few years they have each developed their art practices, individually and together. Lu is a multimedia artist that paints and works with various materials. Mariquitx is a stick and poke tattoo artist and multimedia artist. Their works represent their love, family, and community- building. They are known for hosting pop-ups that are also a space for building community among bushwick artists and other creatives. 

You can find a  les vecines the Mil Mundos in 323 Linden St, Brooklyn.


Lucia (she/them) - IG: @m4p4s

Mariquitx (they/them)- IG: @mariquitx

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