DJ 33 1/3

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Haitian Book Store Stands Tall In These Harsh Covid Days

Photo: Getty Images

Libreri Mapou is a book store next to the Caribbean Marketplace on Northeast Second Avenue.

Owned by Jean-Marie Denis, a cultural leader who has lifted up Haitian art and literature for immigrants and refugees resettling in Miami.

Staying open is a challenge for small business owners in Little Haiti, who weathered economic downturns and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We work very hard, especially myself. And I do it for passion because I like good books. I like culture. I like to encourage the youths and the community to keep their culture, to keep their language,” he said.

Mapou was a schoolteacher in Haiti who got in trouble for teaching his students in Creole, the language they spoke at home, instead of the state-mandated French. He was co-founder of Mouvman Kreyòl Ayisyen, which fought to make Creole the primary language used in Haitian schools, and was jailed by Haitian authorities for four months with no explanation.

In 1992, he opened his store with 300 books from his personal library and a passion for preserving Haitian culture. Now he’s got more than 7,000 books and decades of memories.

Libreri Mapou has been a home for young people wishing to learn Creole, politicians seeking connection with Haitian Americans and poets wanting to hone their craft.

He hosted a meetin with the late Miami Commissioner Art Teele and Haitian-American leaders to build a Haitian cultural center, and expanded the shop in April 1992.

The store is a fixture on tourist guides for Miami and Little Haiti, and Mapou is a familiar voice on WLRN, where he appears on the nightly educational program Radyo Lekol.

The pandemic has been hard on most local businesses, and Libreri Mapou still stands in defiance to the harsh effect of Covid.

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