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Del Alma Publications is based in Zapata County, Texas. Photo: Children Institute

Publishing at the border: A publisher with a "soul" for small Latinx readers

Being bilingual and aiming to empower U.S. Latino and Hispanic children is the higher purpose of Del Alma Publications.

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Based out of Zapata County, Texas, and just a few miles from Laredo, San Antonio, and the mostly-Hispanic Rio Grande Valley, independent publisher Del Alma Publications is determined to revolutionize the book industry and the experience of its readers. 

They are a curious, demanding audience, eager for stories that feature them: Latino and Hispanic children in the United States. 

The publishing house is one of the first independent companies dedicated to publishing bilingual children's books written only by U.S. Latino authors, and its privileged location in Zapata has helped them weather the onslaught of COVID-19 that has ruined Latino businesses far and wide.

"We are Zapata residents for life," Del Alma Publications Marketing Manager Maricia Perez Rodriguez told LMT. "Publication, as the pandemic has shown, can be done from home, so business location is no longer a critical factor."

Although the company was born publishing the books of its founder, Maria Alma G. Perez, over time it has been able to position itself as a publishing house for all purposes with the author and the readers as the main focuses. 

"Our target audience is the Hispanic child born in the United States, and our goal is to provide them with mirror books that accurately reflect their cultural heritage," said Rodriguez. "We specialize in bilingual children's picture books and bilingual/Spanish poetry, but we also plan to publish middle grade chapter books, young adult novels, and regional history books about the Mexican-American experience." 

In the midst of the educational battle to ensure that both school curriculums and textbooks reflect the historical and cultural reality of Hispanics and other non-white communities in the United States, Del Alma also has a blog on issues related to the education of border school students and the lack of bilingual, inclusive learning materials. 

They plan, according to Rodriguez, to focus on publishing teaching materials and resources "for bilingual/dual-language and English as a second language (ESL) teachers in the coming years," with the goal of meeting community literacy challenges to close the Hispanic achievement gap. 

"We strongly believe that it is especially important for teachers, librarians, administrators, and parents, particularly along the U.S.-Mexico border, to integrate culturally relevant literature into their lessons," said Rodriguez, who believes that bilingual/cultural literacy is essential for children who grow up in the middle of two worlds and can understand new ideas and concepts spoken in school and at home.  

Del Alma Publications' mission is clear: to help Hispanic children and youth find a mirror in literature that reflects who they are and who they can become. 

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