“Books are lifelines of survival in inhumane times,
building blocks of conscientious citizenship,
reliquaries of the human spirit.”
Maria Popova channeling Carl Sagan in her essay on
Anne Lamott’s A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader.
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
Lee and I are astounded by, and so very thankful for, the outpouring of support for the Cinco Puntos Press GoFundme Campaign. It makes us proud. For 35 years this has been a miraculous journey, and we carry on, step by step, day by day, the way it’s always been. We are not out of the woods yet, the ground is getting firmer, but our campaign continues. Please, if you can, help us get the word out to potential donors, friends of good books and friends of independent publishing.
Thirty-five years ago, we didn’t know what it meant to be publishers. We knew we were not happy. We were just then re- surfacing from a terrible time in the life of our family. Lee has documented that period in her fiction, and I did the same with my poetry. We believed deeply that to survive as a couple we needed to do something essential, something that reflected our love of good books and the people who create them, the wide blue sky of ideas and the imagination, the music of living a good life on the planet. We needed this to be the core of who we are as a couple. So why not start a publishing company? And that’s what we did, naïve but also innocent, foolhardy but also brave. And why Cinco Puntos Press? Because that’s where live, the Five Points Neighborhood of El Paso, el Chuco, for us such an unexpected but open-hearted neighborhood and city to find ourselves in_a white boy from Memphis, Tennessee, and a white girl from Plainfield, New Jersey, in the midst of a Mexican and Mexican-American community. Magically, we felt wholly at home, and we wanted the name of our company to express these new roots, something Spanish and something English, thus “Cinco Puntos Press” to reflect that wholeness.
One time early on in the press’ history, maybe three or four years, Rudolfo Anaya (sitting on our front porch, looking south into Juárez) told me he was amazed that Cinco Puntos was still alive. “Santa Fe maybe, Albuquerque maybe, but never El Paso.” I had to agree with him but also laugh. I realized then that El Paso, a poor city at the edge of the United States_a place to go through, north or south, east or west_was then and continues to be both our great strength and our great weakness. Somehow, even mysteriously and totally against the grain (or, as William Carlos Williams would say, “In the American Grain”), we have believed in El Paso as a place of unique importance to the psyche of the United States. Likewise, we have always believed in the writers and artists in this city and region, and from the beginning we have celebrated them with our books. For this reason, I believe, writers and artists from around the country find a kinship in the work we do and they come to us to publish their work. That makes us happy, like we’re doing something right, something important.
Even without the pandemic, we live in a troubled time of conglomeration and commercialization, a frightening destruction of our planetary and local environments, and a national tendency toward autocratic government. The pandemic only magnifies the uncertainty of the future. During our 35 years we have learned to deeply believe in the importance and integrity of Independent Publishers to preserve and nourish the intellectual and cultural fabric of our country. It’s essential, and we are very proud to be counted as colleagues of so many wonderful independent presses that do such good work.
As a company, we have traveled through the thick and thin. A winding journey from one book to the next, always asking one question: Is this a good book? Is this something we can get behind? Through the first decades, Cinco Puntos was a fragile beast, but as time passed, we became stronger and tougher. “El Paso Strong.” We even endured the Great Recession when public schools and university and college budgets dried up. These last few years, always thanks to the authors and illustrators who trust us with their work, we have had our best years ever, winning awards at all levels and genres, selling rights internationally, being recognized in the national media and, most importantly, selling books around the nation. John Byrd, the president and CEO of the company, has assembled a wonderful staff. With Lee continuing as Editor-in-Chief, the company was ready for the new generation.
And then came the COVID-19 shutdown and the cash flow trickled down to 75% of what was projected. Humbled, our backs against the wall, we asked for help, and so many people during these difficult times have stepped up with contributions, book purchases for themselves and for schools, purchase orders and simply good will. It’s not over yet. We continue to ask for your support simply by getting the word out, sharing what we do and, hopefully, will continue to do in the years to come.
Lee and I want to say thank you, thank you so much.
Bobby Byrd, Publisher Emeritus
Lee Merrill Byrd, Editor-in-Chief