The Write Stuff

San Antonio's West Side writes first chapter on brand-new book festival

San Antonio's West Side writes first chapter on new book festival

Plaza Guadalupe San Antonio
Plaza Guadalupe will host the West Side's newest book festival. Courtesy of Avenida Guadalupe Association

A new book festival designed to celebrate the magic of reading and promote the tradition of San Antonio storytellers debuts this September. Pachanga de Palabras: A Westside Book Festival will host its first-ever event on Saturday, September 28, from 6-10 pm at the Plaza Guadalupe.

The free, family-friendly event is open the public and includes book and zine vendors, live music, poets, interactive workshops for children and adults, a drag king story time, and food vendors.

Pachanga de Palabras was organized by Echale Books, a traveling pop-up bookshop. Echale recently installed a Little Free Library by Las Palmas Elementary School. The group specializes in Chicanx/Latinx/bilingual/Spanish, feminist, LGBTQI, and progressive books, although it offers genres of all kinds.

Gianna Rendon, founder of Echale Books, is a West Side native. Her love of books stems from the numerous times her mom took her to the library during her childhood.

“We didn't have a lot of money, but we had all the books I could've wanted at the library,” she says.

Rendon founded Echale Books two years ago in response to President Trump’s election and as a way to help neighbors to access a diverse range of literature, particularly books by and about Latinx, feminista, and queer authors. She also sought to provide bilingual and Spanish language books.

“I consider many of our country's problems [as] stemming from ignorance, so I seek to offer people alternative view points,” says Rendon.

According to Rendon, Pachanga de Palabras will be an opportunity for people to learn about the challenges and triumphs of West Side community members past and present.

“The West Side has and still experiences institutionalized racism, which also includes the stereotyping [of] its people as stupid/criminals/lazy/no good,” Rendon says. “By celebrating the stories of the West Side, we seek to show West Siders how amazing and culturally rich they are as well as [show] the rest of San Antonio that our stories matter.”

That diversity will be on display in such activities as the drag king story time by La Voz de Los MENtirosos, San Antonio’s only drag king troupe. Poets from The Pride Center-San Antonio's monthly Queer Voices Speak Out program and IndigeNecias, an all-indigenous woman group, will also perform.

More than 30 vendors are scheduled to be at the event, representing many parts of San Antonio, including Aztlan Lubre Press, Bexar County's BiblioTech digital library, Ericfi.Zines, Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, Fiesta Youth, FlowerSong Books, Libraries Without Borders, and many more.

Like Rendon, many of these vendors live in or are active on the West Side, where community advocates are combating socioeconomic challenges in different ways. Organizers say the book festival is another way to even the playing field.

San Antonio’s leaders acknowledge that the Alamo City has one of the lowest literacy rates in Texas, and local bookshops often struggle to find an audience. Rendon says this event is an  opportunity to help open a new chapter for locals.

“This book festival is not your average book festival,” Rendon said. “There will be music that makes you cry, skits that make you laugh. It will be loud. There will be dancing. Lots of chisme shared.”