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Everybody on the Same Page

Las Cruces' Big Read Festival celebrates the written word and author Rudolfo Anaya.


The Big Read Festival wants you to curl up with a good book this month — and sponsors have a specific title in mind. Similar to other "one city, one book" programs, everyone in Doña Ana County is encouraged to read and discuss the same book, Bless Me, Última, by New Mexican author Rudolfo Anaya.

But the month-long Big Read Festival isn't just about sitting at home in your favorite reading chair. There will be plenty to get you out of the house in-between chapters, including book discussion groups, readings, music and dance performances, film showings, contests and other events related to Anaya's novel and the culture it describes. All events will take place in the Las Cruces area, and are free and open to the public.

The aim of the Big Read Festival is to celebrate and revitalize reading and to bring community residents of all ages together to discuss Anaya's classic New Mexican novel. The festival is sponsored by the New Mexico State University (NMSU) Library in partnership with the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library, the libraries of the Las Cruces Public Schools, the Doña Ana Arts Council, the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico and many other project partners.

The local Big Read Festival is part of The Big Read, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest. A 2004 NEA report, "Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America," identified a critical decline in reading for pleasure among American adults. Just this summer, a new AP-Ipsos poll found that 27 percent of Americans hadn't read a single book in the past year.

The Big Read aims to address this issue directly by providing citizens with the opportunity to read and discuss a single book within their communities. The national Big Read program is the largest federal literature program since the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

In the Las Cruces area, book discussion groups focusing on themes in Bless Me, Ultima, will be held at local libraries, cafes, bookstores and senior centers. Visit the Big Read Festival web site at lib.nmsu.edu/bigread for a full schedule of programs, book discussions, film screenings, contests, a writing workshop and more, as well as information about the novel and Anaya.


The festival will feature two gala kickoff events. On Friday, Oct. 5, at 7 p.m. at the Court Youth Center, award-winning Chicano poet Jimmy Santiago Baca of Albuquerque will give a keynote address. Baca has devoted his life to writing, teaching and speaking about the power of literature and how it can change the lives of those overcoming hardship. The Ballet Folklorico de la Tierra del Encanto will open the event.

The second kickoff event, at the Rio Grande Theatre downtown on Saturday, Oct. 6, at 3 p.m., will feature Cipriano Vigil y Familia of El Rito sharing stories and songs of Northern New Mexico.

The other programs scheduled include:

For more information on the Big Read Festival, visit the web site at lib.nmsu.edu/bigread or contact the NMSU Library at 646-6925 or mmahaffy@lib.nmsu.edu.



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