Books by Chuck Swindoll and James Dobson may be theologically appealing, but they are often culturally inappropriate in Latin America, says Ian Darke. Many contain illustrations reflecting the wealth and values of North Americans, something that Latin Americans have trouble grasping, he says.
Darke is coordinator of Costa Rica–based Letra Viva, an association of 34 small publishers working together to promote and distribute literature by Latin Americans. Publishers like Darke are concerned about how books translated from English to Spanish dominate Christian stores. He and others are working to offer books by Latin authors in Spanish.
"The Spanish book industry is not growing as fast as the church in Latin America," says David Ecklebarger, president of the Miami– based Editorial Unilit, one of the largest Spanish book publishers and distributors. He says it is difficult to raise capital and to get books to stores throughout the region. "Most Christian bookstores are limited to large cities," he says.
Ecklebarger is also the force behind Expolit, an annual gathering of Spanish- language authors, publishers, distributors, and dealers. This year's event, held May 19–23 in Miami, drew 1,500 international delegates and 175 distributors. Spanish book sales lag behind church growth in the United States because second-generation Latin Americans choose to speak English, Ecklebarger says.
Some see a different trend as the education of Christians rises.
"There is a high literacy rate in the region, and it is a part of the culture to appreciate good books," Darke says. "Promotion and distribution are enhanced by the fact that most of Latin America uses the same language."
"Too many books written by Latin Americans are for the elite," says Eugenio Orellana, director of the Miami–based Hispanic Literature Ministries. "They are scholarly theological works that are too difficult for people to read."
Orellana's organization sponsors seminars that train Latin writers to create books and articles for Christian laity. "We are trying to develop arroz con pollo writers," he says, referring to the "rice with chicken" meal common among the middle class and poor.
Theologian René Padilla challenges the notion that popular books are missing from the Latin scene. Citing works by Ecuadorian Jorge Atiencia, Costa Rican Alberto Barrientos, and Argentinean Jorge Porcel, Padilla says that Latin Americans will read books from their region when they are available.
Darke and Padilla would like to see North American resources used to develop and nurture writers and to help finance books by Latin authors. "There is a lot of talent in the church in Latin America," Darke says. "Their voices need to be heard."
ChristianityToday.com has recently covered the growth of Hispanic Christian Radio in the US, and the sales boom of the Spanish translation of the New International Version of the Bible.
Actor and comedian Jorge Porcel discusses his new autobiography and his faith in with Intervizion.
Other Spanish-language books are available at the Christianity Online Bookstore.
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