Step into any one of the dozen or so bookstores on Donceles Street in Mexico City´s historic center and you might find yourself in a predicament similar to the following: Do you stick to the game plan, zeroing in on that novel about the Mexican Revolution that you haven’t been able to find anywhere else, or do you let the precariously stacked corridors of books offer up a little tome that you didn’t even know, before this very second, you couldn’t live without: Bonne Cuisine pour Débutants et Gens Pressés?
Of course, you don´t have to decide. Donceles Street bookstores have a little bit of everything for everyone: from novels to tour books, mainly in Spanish but also in English, French, Italian, and German, used and new. Although it has been called “Mexico´s Used Book Heaven,” Donceles houses many stores, such as Bibliofilia, the Libreria de Viejo, Inframundo, and El Tomo Suelto, that offer a varied selection of new and used books. The area´s fame as a booklover´s paradise dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries. At that time, one could find book merchants lining the streets surrounding the Plaza Mayor. What is today known as Academia Street, for instance, was once home to the first book merchant in Mexico. These area bookstores sprouted up to serve the burgeoning student population of the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria, and the Law, Medicine, and Dentistry schools located nearby. Though the schools have closed or moved to the south of Mexico City, the bookstores remain. One with the oldest lineage is the Librería de México on the corner of Palma y Donceles. This bookstore belonged to Andrés Botas, founder of the Librería Botas on Bolivia Street in 1907.
Donceles Street is located in Mexico City´s Historic Center, just north of the Zócalo. The closest Metro stop is Allende.
-Originally published November 2006