For Teresa Carbajal Ravet, food and language lie at the center of her culture. As the owner of Dulce Bread & Bookshopin Dripping Springs, Texas, she strives to preserve these elements, while making them more accessible to the general public.
Born in Mexico, Carbajal Ravet grew up speaking both Spanish and English and baking and eating pan dulce, Spanish for sweet bread. She came to the states to attend school, with intentions of returning to her home country. Instead, she stayed in Texas doing what she loves – enlightening others about her language and culture by teaching at various universities in the state. As an educator, Carbajal Ravet was frustrated with how difficult it was to find cultural or bilingual books for her classes.
“For where we are as a nation, it shouldn’t be that hard to find cultural literature,” she said. Taking matters into her own hands, Carbajal Ravet opened a bookstore of her own.
Dulce Bread & Bookshop is a cultural bookstore with a mission “to introduce and familiarize the U.S. community with the ethnic community of artists,” the store’s website proclaims. Carbajal Ravet opened the store about a year ago, and it has been well received by the community.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the excitement it has generated,” she said. “We have been steadily growing. There have been some tough times, obviously, and last year was very iffy, but [the store] is showing a lot of promise.”
The geographic location is ideal for her type of store, said Carbajal Ravet. The community, which lies just outside of Austin, often becomes involved in hot-topic issues involving Mexico, due to its proximity to the border.
A lot of ethnicities are coming to Austin now,” she said, “and it is a place that is very proud of its diversity and weirdness. I thought it would be a great place to test out.”
Since food is a big part of Mexican culture, bread was a natural addition. “Bread has a cultural significance among many different ethnicities and religions,” Carbajal Ravet said, adding that it has been a challenge to find ethnic sweet bread recipes.
“My culture is heavily, heavily based on food,” she said. “My relation to books and food is that I can’t have one without the other. Because I have a multicultural store, promoting cultural awareness, it is my instinct to promote cultural sweet bread.”
Carbajal Ravet has relied on networking to make the bookstore known in the area. She often cuts her time in the store short in order to be out in the community spreading the word. Social media has also played a large part, and she has made many connections and customers through Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.
“A lot of events we do are community events,” Carbajal Ravet said. “We like to go out and be a part of a bigger event with a cultural theme, like language and cultural festivals.”
Additionally, Dulce Bread & Bookshop hosts many in-store events, such as bilingual author readings and signings, baking demos, and performances by local musical artists, at which Carbajal Ravet promotes relevant titles.
“This is just what we do in my culture,” she said. “If I have a book, a piece of bread, and a cup of coffee, I’m good to go.”