The mobile bookstore is just one facet of Alegria Bilingual Media, a multimedia and indie book publishing company dedicated to providing Latinx and BIPOC creators with a platform to share their stories. Davina Ferreira, the founder and driving force behind Alegria’s empowering nonprofit and publishing company, said the company aims to highlight the voices of Latinx writers who have been excluded from mainstream media.
“Our mission is to increase representation of Latinx voices and to have more diverse voices in literature and performing arts,” Ferreira said.
Having access to diverse narratives, especially those from the Latinx community, enables young people to relate to others who share their heritage and cultural history — an integral part of embracing one’s identity, Ferreira said.
“A lot of the editions you see inside — when I curate them, I go back to [Colombia],” Ferreira said. “It takes me back to my country. I’ll go to the old historical book stores and I’ll bring first editions and very rare books you don’t find on Amazon. I have really nice older books from people like [Gabriel García Márquez], who is our Nobel prize of literature from Colombia.”
From the sheer enthusiasm with which Ferreira explains the history of her company, it is clear that Alegria is a product of her passion for literature and Latinx culture. In fact, Ferreira’s motivation is largely fueled by her personal experiences. Growing up in California, Ferreira recalls the lack of Latinx representation she was exposed to through the American education system.
“I’ve always seen the stereotypes and the underrepresentation of Latino leaders, Latina leaders, and creators,” Ferreira said. “For me, it was important to pave the way for the younger generation — to show people that are not usually seen in media and across different genres as well.”
Originally from Colombia, Ferreira’s family was her primary connection to diverse types of literature and artists. Considering that American bookstores rarely featured books by Latinx or BIPOC authors, she said it was only while visiting Colombia that she had access to stories and art created by people from her community.
Back in the United States, Ferreira aspired to share Colombian artwork and writing with the people of Los Angeles. Determined to broaden the scope of literature and make reading more accessible to marginalized communities, she created Alegria in 2012 as a bilingual magazine called Alegria Magazine, which featured Latinx art, culture, and entertainment.
Since its conception, Ferreira said Alegria’s mission is “to bring the beauty of literature to all communities” and “create conversations around Latinx stories” has been the source of its success.
To Ferreira, Alegria is no longer just a platform, but also a community highlighting the complexity of the Latinx experience.
“I can tell you true stories that are so powerful,” Ferreira said. “You find stories from women about their abuse in a Latino household — memoirs that are to them a form of healing; I also have undocumented writers and their stories of immigration, the pain and the struggle.”
Hardships and generational struggles are universal experiences within the Latinx community, Ferreira said. However, we can find beauty in the unique stories of each individual — something Ferreira hopes to capture through Alegria’s publications.
“There are also inspirational, beautiful stories: the undocumented worker, who through hard work and dedication ends up opening a company,” Ferreira said. “We don’t see these positive stories so much in traditional media, but I think that each of these stories has a beautiful message to the world.”
Through Alegria’s writers’ collective, Ferreira continues to put Latinx perspectives at the forefront of contemporary literature, fostering empathy and a love for storytelling in the next generation. She said she’s optimistic that the Alegria community will expand, and she is committed to enacting change in the publishing industry, whether that’s through curating the latest collection of BIPOC poets or traversing Los Angeles in her mobile bookstore.
“It’s always been amazing to be able to share something from my culture here in the U.S.,” Ferreira said. “I just want to give this to my community as a gift.”