Bookseller Javier García: ‘In Texas, Spanish is an aspirational language’

Two friends have turned their Dallas bookstore into one of the most important cultural centers in the southern United States, with Latin American arts as the driving force

Javier García, in Madrid on June 7.
Javier García, in Madrid on June 7.Álvaro García
Jacobo García

For many years, Javier García (44) worked as an engineer at the multinational infrastructure company Ferrovial. Born in Logroño (Spain) and based in Dallas, he liked books, Latin American culture, listening to his favorite authors and drinking beers while commenting on new books by Yuri Herrera, Horacio Castellanos Moya, and Carlos Manuel. Little by little, his small Dallas bookstore grew to become one of the most important cultural centers in the southern United States. Lost among cowboy hats, oil wells and Tex-Mex culture, The Wild Detectives bookstore has become a gateway for a generation of great Latin American writers as Texas consolidates its position as the place to be for Hispanic culture.

Question: Until The Wild Detectives arrived, there was only one bookstore in Dallas. It doesn’t seem to be the most profitable business, does it?

Answer: We were two Spanish engineer friends doing what we liked best. Gradually, connections with writers and literary fairs in Mexico, Argentina, and Colombia began and suddenly all those writers and publishers who were friends agreed to go through a place as hostile as Dallas [to access the U.S. market]. Over time, we gradually picked up others. But yes, that was the picture a decade ago: one chain-owned bookstore in an urban area of nearly seven million people.

Q. What is happening in Texas?

A. There’s a lot of migration from both coasts of the United States, especially California and New York, and Texas is benefiting from it. Lower taxes and cheaper rents have led to the arrival of a profile of liberal professionals who are more open and receptive to the culture that Dallas is benefiting from.

Q. The University of Texas has the manuscripts of García Márquez and Borges, and there is a Medina Azahara capitel and paintings by Goya at the Meadow Museum. Is Texas the place to be for Latin culture?

A. In Texas, Hispanics make up more than 40% of the population and Spanish has ceased to be a language linked to the marginal or socially stigmatized, and has become an aspirational language. They are de facto bilingual and are taking advantage of that. You can live in Dallas without knowing English because even public documents are written in both languages.

Q. Is Spanish an industry in the United States?

A. Latin American culture is a lure and Spanish is the language everyone wants to know. Now people don’t have a complex when they speak Spanish and, by extension, Spain benefits from being the cradle of everything that is happening. For example, there are many people without Latin ties who call their bar La bonita because it is more elegant. At the literary level it is not a large industry, but it has been growing, and the major publishers have collections exclusively in Spanish.

Q. Does the interest in Latin American literature in the United States have the same strength in Spain?

A. Spain has always looked with admiration at what comes from France or England, and has treated the national production or what comes from Latin America with contempt. In the United States, only 3% of books are read in translation compared to Spain, which reads almost 25%, when there is a continent with 500 million people producing an amazing culture. It’s something to keep an eye on.

Q. What book and talks have surprised you recently?

A. A book I was surprised by was Fortuna by Hernán Díaz (Anagrama), which won the Pulitzer, and as for an event, a recent talk by Cartarescu. Two hundred people listening with open mouths to talk about the differences between Romanian modernism and postmodernism was a surprise. These are things that used to happen only in San Francisco or New York but not in Dallas. It is as if the Beatles came to Logroño.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

More information

Archived In

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS