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Books and Bookstores in the Chicano Movement: A Publisher Remembers

Books and Bookstores in the Chicano Movement:
A Publisher Remembers

Thursday, September 16, 2021
12:30 pm

Online via Zoom and
In Person | Brazos Hall
Advanced Registration Required


In 1978, a group of friends in West Side San Antonio gathered to put together a bookstore, a cultural center and a publishing house in a church basement.  Rolando Cortez, one of the organizers, reflects on the work Penca Books and the Penca Books cultural center did in and for the Chicano movement, for San Antonio, for Texas and for the greater Southwest. Focusing on works that emphasized the history, humor and points of view of Chicanos and Chicanas who grew up with the Civil Rights Movement, Penca Books housed books, artists and authors that emphasized their connection to the movements and the experiences that helped make the Chicano movement in Texas and the United States.

Rolando CortezRolando Cortez and Penca Books | Rolando Cortez was a San Antonio college student in the early 1970s just as a burgeoning Chicano Movement swelled.  Issues of social justice and cultural provide came to the forefront and a dynamic new generation of writers and artists came of age. 

Cortez joined the movement by co-founding Penca Books on san Antonio’s west Side (‘Penca’ translates from Nahuatl to ‘great stalk’)

“for many of us,” Cortez says, “Penca Books provided a venue for creative literary expressions for gifted chicano writers, as well as an outlet for community cultural awareness tostudents, educators and aspiring writers.”

From 1975 to 1980, Penca Books sold books and published new works, including Joe Reyna’s Raza Humor.  Penca also hosted live readings from noted authors such as Rudolfo Anaya.

Cortez built an impressive collection of vintage Chicano literature, much of which is inscribed to him by the authors.  He also compiled significant ephemera relating to the Chicano movement as well as prints by noted artist Santos Martinez. In 2021, Cortez donated his collection to The Wittliff Collections.