Luis Soriano’s Biblioburro – The Donkey Library of Colombia
A lifetime lover of books Luis Soriano, is a legendary man who came from a small town called La Gloria, Colombia. Growing up in a remote part of his country, Luis Soriano managed to obtain a college degree in Spanish literature from a professor who visited his town two times per month. After his studies he went on to become an elementary school teacher. The Magdalena province of Colombia, where Luis Soriano taught his students, was a particularly poor and violent area of the country. Most of the children in the area had witnessed intense conflict first-hand. Being in a very remote and poor region, books were not easy to get a hold of, but with the limited resources that Luis Soriano had, he noticed the immensely powerful affect that books had on his students.
With a passion to share books with the children of the Magdalena Province and using two donkeys, Luis Soriano decided to spend his weekends carrying around a small collection of books to the impoverished communities in the area. Through this idea, his portable library, known as the ‘Biblio Burro’ (which translates to donkey library) was born. The Biblio Burro began with a modest 70 books, but slowly Luis Soriano began to grow his collection. A major turning point was when he wrote a letter to a Colombian journalist and writer called Juan Gossain. Mr. Soriano had heard Juan Goassain reading excerpts from a novel that he wrote on the radio. Luis Soriano liked what he had heard and wrote to Mr. Gossain asking for a copy of the book to include in his donkey library. Juan Goassain not only decided to send Luis Soriano a copy of his book, but broadcasted the details of the exchange over the radio which created a huge amount of other authors to do the same. Because of this game changing event the Biblio Burro collection eventually grew to nearly 4,800 books, with children’s adventure stories being the most popular genre.
Struggles Along the Way
The rural, conflict riddled region where Luis Soriano was sharing books with children has been no easy place to travel. Mr. Soriano has braved a variety of hardships along the way including being accosted by armed paramilitary groups and drug traffickers. At one point bandits tried to rob him and tied him up, only to find out that he had no money at all. Through intense heat, braving jungles of dangerous animals, Luis Soriano’s donkey library has been serving the children of Northern Colombia since the late 1990’s. Just a few years back the Biblio Burro suffered a major setback as Luis Soriano had to have one leg amputated due to an accident he suffered involving one of his donkeys. The inspirational story of the donkey library and Luis Soriano has been turned into the Biblioburro children’s book and a documentary has been made filmed about the library.
Below is a YouTube video with more information about Luis Soriano and the Biblio Burro: