We are over the moon!

The House of Peruvian Literature (Casa de Literatura Peruana) has awarded its 2021 prize—given each year to outstanding writers and researchers of Peruvian letters—to Alfredo Mires, director of the Rural Libraries Network of Cajamarca. The network is one of Heart-Links’ oldest partner. Previous prize recipients include Mario Vargas Llosa, Carlos Germán Belli, and Carmen Ollé.

man facing left kneels in front of stones where he is making an offering
Alfredo Mires

“Throughout its 50 years, the Network of Rural Libraries of Cajamarca has given new impetus to the creation and circulation of books, also contributing to the recovery and revaluation of community memory and oral traditions through the Enciclopedia Campesina,” the awards jury wrote. “This project questions and reinvents the dynamics of compiling community knowledge, proposing new ways of valuing the poetic word and publications made by and for the community.”

The Enciclopedia Campesina is a collection of 20 volumes that gathers stories and knowledge from across the mountainous region surrounding the town of Cajamarca. Heart-Links financed its first printing 20 years ago and is now supporting publication of a new edition that includes stories and knowledge from other communities that have joined the network.

The network now boasts more than 200 titles that are distributed among 500 remote communities and 50 schools in Cajamarca, Lambayeque, La Libertad and Amazonas. Volunteer librarians keep the books in their homes, making them available to the neighbours. They also lead reading circles. Volunteer coordinators deliver the books to the librarians.

“Each coordinator is in charge of 10 to 15 libraries, and it is an intense job,” Alfredo Mires told El País, which published an article about the decision to honour him. “Because they are not just book distributors: they have to leave the work of the chacra (land) and sometimes walk for many hours or days and stay in the community—to meet with the children, see what population there is of children with disabilities, teach them how to make a reading circle.”

man sits in front of wall with drawing of rural men and women linking arms. Text reads, "Reading is like food for the mind,"-- Javier Huamán
Javier Huamán, Rural Libraries regional coordinator

Javier Huamán, one of the networks’ longest-serving coordinators, must travel three hours by bus from Cajamarca to Bambamarca and then continue on foot another four hours to reach his home in Luychocolpa. “Before the pandemic, I would go out for three days to coordinate in my area: to bring them new books and pick up the others, the books rotate like people, like food,” he told El País.

The award ceremony is to be streamed live (in Spanish) on Friday, February 11, at 7 p.m. EST. If you’d like to join, tune in to the Casa de Literatura Peruana’s Facebook page or YouTube channel.

Want to learn more about the Rural Libraries Network?

Join us on February 10, at 7 p.m. EST for Share the Love @ Home, where Lola Paredes, part of the Rural Libraries’ leadership team, will speak live from Peru about their work. Free registration here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_GhQVJaILQWCUvnaj-PDKNQ