Hope and Esperanza in La Casa Azul Bookstore

#FemaleFounders Panel

On Tuesday, November 3rd, I had the opportunity to watch a panel of female founders discuss the methodologies to receive funding for their business.

The panelists included the following:

Each and every speaker provided different ways in which they sourced their funding and although each had different ways in which they received it (some not really by choice), the message was clear in the end:  If you’re passionate about something, pursue it- keep driving.  

Esperanza and Hope

Perhaps the most touching story that I related to was Aurora Anaya’s Cerda’s story:

Auroro Anaya-Cerda’s journey and story was especially inspiring because of the very nature of her business- an actual brick and mortar book store in Harlem.  Her inspiration came from years of reading books as a child.  Her story reminded me of when i was younger.  My mother would always bring my brother and i to the library and would come back home with books upon books upon books.  I remember whenever we would go to the mall, as well.  I always looked forward to our trip but not for the reasons that many would expect.   I wasn’t into the clothes, accessories and things that stores tailored to young adolescent females.  No, I was truly excited about being able to go to the bookstore and being able to select my very own book.  I would sometimes spend hours touching and holding each copy in my hand and thinking how excited I would be the next day when I get to spend all day finishing up the book. It was a wonderful feeling that I sometimes feel has been lost in the recent generation.

Ms. Cerda’s story recounted and elicited those same feelings as she explained her journey of wanting to open an actual bookstore store in Harlem.   She wanted her community to experience the same joys of going to a store and being able to pick and choose a book that they truly can call their own.

She also mentioned her love of “The House on Mango Street“, written by Sandra Cisneros, and said how much she related to Esperanza, the title character from the book.  Although I read the book when I was older, I immediately knew the connection that she was talking about.

The book was the perfect example of why she wanted to open the store in Harlem.  Growing up, I was one of a few minority students in my school.  I often read books that, although I could relate to certain topics, the main characters often were characters that looked like me or experienced the same issues that I experience as a different ethnic group.  Esperanza, although still a different ethnicity, would’ve been a character that I could’ve related to in a better capacity, had known about the book when I was younger.

In the book, Esperanza, the main character, translated to “Hope” in English, is just that.  For Ms. Cerda, hope was just the thing she needed to keep pushing through.  Hope when things weren’t looking positive.  Hope, when banks continuously told her no and she started questioning her vision.  Hope, when after three years of arduously trying to find funding, Ms. Cerda was able to crowdsource her campaign through the community.  Hope, because after years of countlessly being told “no”, she’s able to walk into her store – La Casa Azul and see the passion in her patrons eyes.

La Casa Azul and Frida Kahlo

Although I haven’t been able to make it to La Casa Azul yet, I plan on heading there shortly.  I’m fortunate enough to be only a few subway stops away.

One thing that can be guaranteed that day is that I will most certainly be giddy from excitement.  There are some moments in life where a person’s story and journey hits a note to certain individuals.  This story is just that for me and it couldn’t have come at a time where questions in my life were plaguing me.  Although her story lasted less than 20 minutes in total – it had a profound impact on me from her journey, to her inspiration and even to the name of her bookstore – La Casa Azul.

Frida Kahlo was one of my favorite painters.  I learned about her a little later in life and was fortunate enough to see some of her work in the Botanical Gardens exhibit last month.  Frida Kahlo’s home was named “La Casa Azul” (Blue House) and it was her sanctuary where she was able to foster her creativity and paint her infamous paintings.

When I was younger, reading books in my room, and sometimes under my blankets at night, was my La Casa Azul.  I was able to separate my life and fully immerse myself into my readings.

Those feelings have never gone away and although life has made it difficult for all of us to be able to sit and truly enjoy reading, the passion has never left.  It just needs to be reignited and bookstores like La Casa Azul is doing just that.  So, kudos to Ms. Anaya-Cerda.  At 31 years old, you have finally reignited my passion to sit down and enjoy a good book.


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