Border Location Offers Unique Opportunities for Reforma
President Luís Chaparro called the 452 attendees, including 61 exhibitors, at the Reforma National Conference (RNCIII), part of an extended family. The gathering of the American Library Association’s affiliate organization, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking, was held September 19–21 primarily at the El Paso (Tex.) Convention Center, just blocks from the border of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. The theme was “Bridging the Gaps—Juntos @ the Border.”
After a musical welcome by guitar-playing El Paso Mayor John F. Cook, the conference kicked off with keynote addresses by National Endowment of the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia, who called on those of Hispanic descent to make public noise about the strong challenges to get all Americans to read more. He was followed by an emotional talk by award-winning author Jimmy Santiago Baca, who spent five years in a maximum security prison and has now devoted his life to writing and teaching others who are overcoming hardship.
Other speakers included Diana Washington Valdez, an El Paso Times reporter whose investigation of the slayings of women in Juárez resulted in the documentary Border Echoes/Ecos de una frontera, produced and directed by Lorena Mendez-Quiroga. Border issues were also the topic of the closing session with David Bacon, a writer and photojournalist on issues of labor, immigration, and trade. Local author Benjamin Alire Sáenz, a creative writing professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, also addressed attendees.
Sessions covered a variety of topics, including: “Adelante! Library Services for Your Latino Communities,” co-presented by ALA President-elect Camila Alire, who will become the first Chicana to head the Association; an “Advocacy Institute” with Conference Co-Chair and El Paso Library Director Carol Brey-Casiano, a past ALA president, as well as current President Jim Rettig, ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels, and ALA Office for Library Advocacy Director Marci Merola; “Revisiting the Digital Divide and the Latino Community”; and “Trends in Marketing to Latinos: Implications for Libraries.”
Conference attendees also had an opportunity to cross the border to tour the Biblioteca de la Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez, and shop at the Mercado as well as to visit El Paso’s historic missions—Ysleta, Socorro, and San Elizario.
It would not have been a traditional Reforma gathering without music and entertainment. Venues included the Arts Festival Plaza and Alcantar Sky Garden as well as the outdoor awards banquet and dance amid the mountains surrounding McKelligon Canyon.
A full report on the conference is scheduled for the November issue of American Libraries. A video of conference highlights is available at AL Focus.
Posted on October 1, 2008. Corrected on October 3, 2008. Discuss.