Colombian American poet Davina A. Ferreira is the founder of Alegría Publishing, one of the largest publishers of Latinx writers and poets in the U.S. They have hundreds of titles available–including 32 so far this year alone–as well as several multimedia projects in the works. So it’s safe to say that what began as Davina’s pandemic project has blossomed into a beautiful space of community, creativity, talent, and joy from all over the Latinx diaspora.
Sofía Aguilar and Davina A. Ferreira hopped on Zoom to chat about the journey to creating Alegría Publishing, poetry as a vehicle for healing, and the future of the press.
SOFÍA AGUILAR: Alegría Publishing originally started with the now-beloved traveling bookmobile. How did you get the idea to pursue the project?
DAVINA A. FERREIRA: Before the pandemic, I told my husband that I would love to share my love and passion for Latin American books with people. With all the issues we face with diversity and inclusion in public education, I wanted to share the books that really impacted me like One Hundred Years of Solitude, poets and writers that I grew up reading. But I also wanted to promote emerging voices and support writers of color. So I called my brother and we found a used, beat-up van for under $3,000. From there, we started curating and making it Instagramable, making literature fun and accessible, going with the bookstore to different schools or fairs, or even picking a location and showing up there randomly, changing the world inside the van with every season, sharing conversations with people about culture and diversity and the human experience, being with each other around books. It has been so magical and fun. We represent such a small percentage of everything that’s published traditionally, so whatever we can do to bring that love for books and creative writing is the mission.
SOFÍA AGUILAR: How did that lead to the creation of the publishing press?
DAVINA A. FERREIRA: When we were in full lockdown during the pandemic, I launched this contest online through our platform because I wanted to hear from other poets. Of course, I thought, “Great, another crazy idea. Who’s going to send anything?” I ended up receiving the most incredible poetry from over 170 poets from all over the U.S. like Brooklyn, Florida, Texas, the Midwest. These were incredible and important stories that needed to be heard, and that’s when I asked myself, “Who is publishing these writers?” The answer is that people have paved the way of course, but on a grand scale, it’s very limited. At the Big Five houses, we’re not the priority. It’s changing slowly, which is good. But I knew I had to create something with this and that then became The Latinx Poetry Project. And since 2020, we’ve had our writer’s collective, we’ve published over 32 titles this year, and 140 writers and poets have been published through us, which is more than big or small publishing houses. My vision is to bring light to these voices and this beautiful community of artists we’ve created. Everyone is so talented and I’m so proud of what we’ve done so far.
My vision is to bring light to these voices and this beautiful community of artists we’ve created. Everyone is so talented and I’m so proud of what we’ve done so far.Davina A. Ferreira of Alegría Publishing
SOFÍA AGUILAR: What makes Alegría Publishing different from other publishers?
DAVINA A. FERREIRA: Nowadays, if you want to publish independently, there are so many options and publishing opportunities for people. What makes us different is that we’re hands-on. We start with our writers and poets from page one, the idea, the desire – to the end of the manuscript, the launch, and distribution. We take you through the whole creative process and educate our community on how it works to be an indie writer. And we base our criteria on talent, not how many people you have on your platform. We invest our time and resources in education, marketing, book signings, and building communities to hopefully launch their careers. Some of our writers are even working on their second book with us, which is really cool.
SOFÍA AGUILAR: Why is it important for you to uplift Latinx voices?
DAVINA A. FERREIRA: It’s great to see all these platforms and great media from our own community being created and thriving. But back in 2012 when I started Allegría Magazine, there were very few of us out there. For me, it was always puzzling: the dialogue about who we are, the stereotypical representation of who people thought we were. Growing up in Latina America, I would see these beautiful and sophisticated publications and media, whereas everything here was very tacky and low quality. But that is not who we are. Since day one, it’s been a mission that people, not only from Latin America but also from other cultures, really see and connect to the beauty of our culture and the beauty of our people. Even though we’ve come from so much, the immigration stories and the hardships and everything we go through as immigrants, I feel joy. We’re naturally joyful and resilient and talented. There is so much talent in our community but still very low access and this is what motivates me today. The book is the end product but the reality is the transformation that happens to these young artists. When they come into the collective, some of them are really shy or are with depression. Then slowly, they start blossoming into themselves, opening up, shining, and healing. It’s a beautiful thing and an honor for me to be able to be part of this process.
Since day one, it’s been a mission that people, not only from Latin America but also from other cultures, really see and connect to the beauty of our culture and the beauty of our people.Davina A. Ferreira of Alegría Publishing
SOFÍA AGUILAR: What do you love about reading, writing, and publishing poetry?
DAVINA A. FERREIRA: Growing up in Colombia in the 80s and 90s as a teenager, I was in a very violent place and dealing with mental health issues and addiction in my family. Poetry became for me an oasis of peace and healing, and that’s where I started to become a writer. It has not stopped being so to this day for me as an adult woman. Not only does it help me when I’m going through a crisis, but it’s also a gift that I treasure because it can help our mental health. That’s why I’m so passionate about this work and love to bring together the powers of creative writing and mental health, to bring clarity and healing into life. I also feel that in today’s world with digital platforms, it’s a format that is easily digestible and shareable, that can touch someone’s heart and bring someone back to themselves even if you post a little bit and not the whole poem. Poetry is transforming and helping the younger generation get a beautiful love for it in a new way. That is a beautiful thing nowadays.
SOFÍA AGUILAR: Looking ahead, what’s next for Alegría Publishing this year?
DAVINA A. FERREIRA: We have around 20 more titles coming up, so by the end of 2023, we’re probably going to have over 50 titles of Latinx writers and poets, which is incredible. And every day on our social media platform for National Poetry Month, I’m inviting different poets from our community to go to the streets of Los Angeles and gift poetry books and help people fall in love with poetry. We’re also really looking forward to helping these artists continue growing their careers by doing a live theater production with over 30 stories by artists and performers for Latinx Heritage Month. Manuel, a beautiful, very experienced theater director and great friend from Guatemala, will be coaching them to be on the stage to perform their pieces. And we’ll continue growing that multimedia aspect of the company with a documentary about our bookmobile that is going to be shot this year. It’s all beautiful. It’s magical. It’s a lot of work, of course. But I feel very lucky to be able to do it.