Colorado lost an incredible Chicana this year. She was known for her active role in the Chicano Movement and her bookstore in Denver. Her granddaughter shares this booklist with us to honor her legacy.
On Tuesday, January 12, 2021, Priscilla Salazar, loving wife, mother of four, grandmother of sixteen, great-grandmother of fifteen, and the foster mother of many, passed away at 86. Priscilla was born on September 27, 1934, in Garcia, CO to Fermin and Percides Garcia. She was a small-business owner of El Camino Real bookstore and gift shop. El Camino Real was the first bookstore of its time to distribute American Indian, Chicano, Latin American, and Mexican literature in both English and Spanish. It was the leading distributor for Chicano literature nationwide. The National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year recognized Priscilla in 1976 as a successful female entrepreneur and she even met President Gerald Ford at the White House.
Priscilla Salazar left a lasting legacy with her contributions to the Chicano Movement and the community. My grandmother loved books and supporting local authors. Her bookstore became one of her proudest accomplishments. She was friends with so many Colorado authors when she owned El Camino Real and she maintained those relationships throughout her life. To honor her, I’ve compiled this booklist with some of her favorites.
The People of El Valle: A history of the Spanish colonials in the San Luis Valley by Olibama Lopez Tushar
This is one of the few books that digs into the early Spanish settlers of the San Luis Valley. Tushar provides readers with traditions, customs, and a rich family history of this area’s first settlers. A small publishing firm published this book so copies can be hard to find, but many historians and Colorado Chicanos have found Tushar’s work incredibly helpful. My grandmother loved to support and sell books like this one in her bookstore, and this book was absolutely one of her favorites. Our family is featured in the book.
Bless Me Ultima is our family’s must-read. Anaya takes caring for your elders, a strong cultural value, and mystifies readers in this novel. Anaya’s multi-generation storytelling weaves the story of a child exploring his grandmother’s world while introducing the reader into the world of curanderas (healers). The book is informational and inspiring. This is almost compulsory for anyone wanting a deeper understanding of Chicano culture. Anaya and my grandmother were good friends, and this book always held a special place in her heart.
Lalo Delgado is a voice of a generation. He was an activist, poet, and educator and his poems give a great Chicano insight into the Civil Rights Movement. If you’re looking for more poetry of the Chicano Movement outside of Corky Gonzales’ Yo So Joaquin, Delgado is a great start. He and my grandmother were incredibly close friends, and she loved her conversations with Lalo.
Along with being a novelist, Dr. Irene Blea is also an activist, sociologist, and educator. When she’s not writing fiction, she has written books about feminism and the Chicana movement. Daughters of the West Mesa is a captivating story based on true events. Although not considered a light read, it is hard to put down. If you are interested in true crime this is the book for you! Blea and my grandmother were best friends and travel buddies later in their lives.
A book on several must-read lists, Fajardo-Anstin’s storytelling takes the reader into personal stories that make you both hopeful and sad for the Latina main characters. Although each story is different, themes of family, domestic violence, love, and the consequences of change seep into each one. Fajardo-Anstin gives each of her leading ladies a sense of dignity while taking us into a sad moment of their lives. For a local reader, it is fun to have Denver in the backdrop and learn about the resilience of Latina women. In continuing my grandmother’s love of supporting and nourishing Colorado’s authors, I felt it appropriate to add Fajardo-Anstine to this list.