The combined devastation of Hurricane Maria and the $72 billion debt crisis, along with the federal government’s handling of both, has forced tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans to leave for the mainland United States. With so many former island residents living in disparate locations, one online bookstore is working to create a digital repository for the island’s literature. 

Carlos A. Goyco Blechman and Gerardo Enríquez Rivera, the co-founders of Libros 787, spoke to Remezcla about their project yesterday (February 1). The name comes from the Spanish word for books and the island’s primary area code.

“Puerto Ricans in the states have to dial 787 almost every time they want to connect with their friends or relatives here in Puerto Rico,” Blechman explained. “So it’s like an analogy: We’re connecting not phone calls, but the literature and the culture from the island to people outside.”

Libros 787 officially launched in December, with Blechman and Rivera overcoming the island’s destroyed communications infrastructure by physically traveling to the homes and offices of individual authors and publishing houses to secure titles. Many of these parties, including the government-affiliated Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, lacked the capacity to sell books online.  

“Most of [the publishers] don’t have the e-commerce side, they have physical bookstores,” Rivera said. “And most of them don’t even have bookstores because they’re publishing houses. Most of them are kind of older, they’re more in their 50s or 60s, and we’re bringing this structure that is new for them and opening new markets for them. So they’re liking it.”

The store’s Instagram posts of available books show many Spanish- and English-language books, including children’s, historical and contemporary literature: 

 

 

 

 

Head to Libros787.com for more information.