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El Paso’s Cinco Puntos Press turns to community for life support

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El Paso’s iconic independent publishing company Cinco Puntos Press has taken a significant financial hit amid the economic shutdown caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus — and they are asking the community for support.

“Last year was our best year by far, then the first two months of this year were great, then on March 10 literally everything stopped. The book industry, like most industries, took a nosedive,” said Bobby Byrd, who co-founded Cinco Puntos Press with his wife Lee in 1985.

A GoFundMe campaign was launched April 17 to raise $250,000 to help continue operations. As of Tuesday morning almost $20,000 had been donated.

Bobby and Lee Byrd are co-founders of El Paso’s Cinco Puntos Press. (Photo courtesy of Cinco Puntos Press)

Byrd said independent publishing has always had its economic challenges and they have been able to overcome other downturns. But things came to a screeching halt in March when nonessential businesses had to close their doors to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Federal aid helps, but only a bit

Cinco Puntos was able to qualify for a small business disaster loan and a majority of the funding will go toward paying salaries for their 6.5 employees, Byrd said.

While the federal aid has helped cover payroll, Byrd said there are still debts that need to be paid, including royalties for published work and funding for the books queued for the fall and 2021.

Without the additional funds they are trying to raise through community support, Byrd said they are in danger of closing the doors.

“It’s time to say we need help from the community,” co-founder Lee Byrd said. “If the community is able, right now is the time that we need the help.”

Exploring options

Bobby Byrd said they have been looking at their options to generate cash flow, but with schools, libraries and bookstores closed it has been a challenge. They are still taking online orders for books, and have considered selling their building on Texas Avenue if necessary.

“You understand what will happen if you fail, and that’s how we feel,” Bobby Byrd said.

Cinco Puntos is known for publishing bilingual children’s books, educational books and multicultural books centered on life in the Southwest and the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as other parts of the world.

Among the dozens of authors and illustrators published by Cinco Puntos include award-winning novelist and poet Benjamin Alire Saens, journalist and novelist Elena Poniatowska, Chicano artist Gaspar Enriquez and artist Jose Cisneros.

Editor’s note: Cinco Puntos Press published “Little Gold Star,” illustrated by the late Gloria Osuna Perez and Lucia Perez, the mother and sister of Elida S. Perez, and “Cada Nino/Every Child,” illustrated by Lucia Perez.

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Elida S. Perez

Elida S. Perez is a longtime community and investigative reporter. Her experience includes work as city government watchdog reporter for the El Paso Times, investigative reporter for El Paso Newspaper Tree and communities reporter with the Salem, Oregon, Statesman Journal.

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