Nestled amongst the trees in the busy Colonia Los Mangos of Puerto Vallarta, you will find a stately building whose presence brings an immediate sense of peace and tranquility. Its arches invite the visitor inside and the feeling of acceptance and community upon crossing the threshold is not a whim or wishful thinking, it is intentional.
What is your first reaction to the word, “Library”? Is it row upon row of books? Is it the watchful librarians looking over their glasses, finger to lips in the well known “Shhh” position? Is it somewhere you visit anymore or is it something you consider antiquated and pre-information age? Whatever your image of library is, Biblioteca Los Mangos will either enhance it or challenge it to be something vibrant, engaging and inclusive.
Executive Director Adrianna Garcia and Paco Ojeda who teaches at and helps promote the library along with a fantastic group of volunteers are paying forward their own life experiences to bring the library to the community and the community to the library.
Moving to Puerto Vallarta from her hometown of Mexico City she only wished that she could somehow find a place to live and work near the ocean. Like all of us who relocate, she struggled to find a suitable place that would rent to her given she was also on a job hunt. Finding a place that was perfect for her, Adrianna got a taste of what real community and giving looked like in Puerto Vallarta. The landlord refused to accept her savings for the rent and deposit but said instead, “When you find work, then you will pay rent.” Adrianna was struck by the kindness shown her and resolved that this kind of compassion and generosity would become an integral part of her life. It is no wonder then that as the Executive Director of Los Mangos, she has fostered a community ethos of empowerment and inspiration while maintaining it in an accessible environment. “The stories come here to us, we just need to find a place for them.” she quips happily as she shares the stories of community members who have found a place and assistance to share their passions and crafts. Adrianna’s personal standards of non-judgment and inclusiveness also pervade the library, now dubbed aptly Cultural Centre (Centro Cultural). “We are working to make everything about coming here easier.” she adds as she explains that many in the past who would come in looking for a library card to access the resources had been asked to return to pick it up and did not because of the delay. To avoid the necessity of returning and to help the individual have an immediate sense of belonging, they are streamlining the process so that a card is issued on the spot. Adrianna hints that there is enough struggle to life and that becoming a part of the Los Mangos community should not be one of them. Her leadership and “pay it forward” attitude are creating a place of strength in the midst of everyday struggles.
To compliment her efforts, Adrianna has amassed a team of volunteers to ensure Los Mangos Cultural Centre has the hands it needs to continue to grow and flourish. Enter Paco Ojeda, accomplished editor, writer, promoter and media creator who has also made a commitment to build the community through cultural education and literacy. He collaborates with Centro Cultural Biblioteca Los Mangos as it is officially called to provide “innovative communication and promotion solutions”. Utilizing his well honed talents and network he is working hard to get Los Mangos in touch with the right people for the right reasons. Whether communicating through the weekly newsletter, rebuilding and enhancing the website, connecting with donors or promoting events and classes, Paco’s enthusiasm and love for the community of the centre is evident. “What attracted you to this place?” he asks as we talk about the centre. He knows, because it is the same warmth, acceptance and inspiration that caused him to begin teaching, but he persists. Teri and I confess that we normally take notice of libraries because significant people like Teri’s Aunt Shirley (R.I.P.) our good friend Karen Spooner in New York state along with so many other mentors who stressed the importance of education and resourcing education have ingrained their important to us but that this place has something yet more. Paco nods his head in agreement as we explain the welcome and warm embrace of the centre stands out as a beacon in a world so lacking of it. Paco’s smile confirms his agreement as he greets a community member entering the main doors behind us. His enthusiasm and congruent ethos provides the centre with a much appreciated and effective communication strategy to carry it into its next 20 years of service.
Yes, the Centro Cultural Biblioteca Los Mangos has been serving the community for 20 years; a remarkable feat given that it receives no subsides or significant government aid. All their funding comes from their activities, like the new weekly Mercado Los Mangos, and their recent Art Show and Auction. Donations large and small along with tiles that can be placed in memoriam and / or to recognize significant supporters carry the centre daily and allow for upgrades and expansions to the facility and its offerings. Adrianna said it well when speaking of the new weekly Market the reason for implementing it and its effect on the centre,
“This ‘buy local’ market is a way to materialize some of the core values we stand for, and which drive all our programs and events: creativity, ongoing training, social responsibility, and a strong sense of community. Plus, Mercado Los Mangos will provide a more stable revenue stream for the library, which relies on private donations and receives minimal government funding”.
Simply stated the Centro Cultural Biblioteca Los Mangos is by, for, to and of you! Whether you have lived in Puerto Vallarta, area regular visitor or a temporary vacationer, a visit to and support of this place will only enhance your life. Programs are in place now, being developed and awaiting leaders and volunteers like you to enjoy. Why not take a moment and stop by today? You are sure to be welcome!