Twenty years ago in Bogota, a man decided to save as many abandoned books as he could. José Alberto Guitierrez, to call him by his full name, drives a Garbage truck around the columbian city and found out that people threw away their books so he decided to save them by taking them to his house, this initiative got him the title of “Lord of the books”.
With the house slowly being filled with abandoned books, José Alberto, along with his wife Luz Mery and their three children turned the ground floor of their house into a free library they called “La Fuerza de las palabras” (The Power of words in English). The library became famous very quickly, to the point that volunteers from all around the country (and even from abroad) came to Bogota in order to help José Alberto and his family. In addition to this library, Luz Mery came up with the idea of opening a “Hospital” for old and damaged books that she would fix with her sewing skills.
José Alberto became so popular in South America that he was invited to the International Book Fairs in Bogota, Monterrey (Mexico) and Santiago (Chile). Shortly after, book donations came from all over the continent to the point that their library now contains more than 25 000 books. With space becoming an issue for the family (The surface of the library being 90m² or almost 108 square yards), the reading sessions they held for the kids of the neighborhood stopped and the library only opened when someone knocked at the door to get a book.
The news of the Guitierrez’ free library reached one of the disarmament zones of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), who recently signed a peace treaty with the government thus ending 50 years of conflicts. One of the rebels reached out to José Alberto and his family to ask them for books so that they could prepare for their reintegration into the society.
Through “The Power of words” José Alberto wanted to show the world that not only people waste food but also books, and that this loss of intellectual nourishment was almost as deplorable as Food wastage. He also stated: “Books transformed me. So I thought that in places like these, it would be a symbol of hope, a symbol of peace”
If you want to know more about José Alberto and his family’s work, we invite you to visit their website!