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In Marketplace

Que Pasa Manager Cynthia Zarazua puts a hip twist on Spanish lit. (PHOTO: Emily Chriske)

In Marketplace

Los libros, los libros y más libros. (PHOTO: Emily Chriske)

Que Pasa serves up books, coffee y literacy


Que Pasa Coffee & Books, 611 W. National Ave., is Wisconsin's first and only Spanish bilingual bookshop.

"Our goal is to make literacy more attractive by having a safe haven for learning," says manager Cynthia Zarazua.

The cozy retail outlet and coffee shop opened in 1998 and features books written by Spanish/Latin authors as well as books translated into Spanish.

A wide variety of genres are stacked on Que Pasa's shelves, including fiction, poetry, kids, young adult, reference, language instruction books and more. Zarazua says currently the most popular books originally written in English and translated into Spanish are "The Da Vinci Code," the "Chicken Soup" series and, for young readers, anything by Shel Silverstein.

Que Pasa also special orders books in many different languages -- not just Spanish -- for UWM, MPS, the Milwaukee Public Library and more.

"Our services are not limited to Spanish. We can special order books in any language," says Zarazua.

The cyber café has four online computers and slings Alterra coffee, freshly made sandwiches, bagels and other snack items.

Although literacy and books are Que Pasa's la carne y las papas (meat and potatoes), the space also celebrates Latino art and music, with vintage record covers depicting Hispanic musicians on the walls, along with brightly colored silkscreen woodprints from Central America.

The space hosts many cultural events -- from poetry to music to business meetings -- and provides English-learning sessions where college students mentor Spanish speakers.

This summer, Que Pasa will offer a Spanish learning course por los ninos (for children) through the Futura Language Professionals. School-age kids up to the fifth grade are invited to attend.

Although Zarazua, a Mexican-American who grew up in a poor family with eight children in Kansas, did not speak Spanish as a child, she earned a Spanish Literature degree at Kansas University and feels learning a foreign language is important, no matter which one it is.

"I think people should be open to learning a foreign language at any time, whether it's Spanish or Croation or whatever. It increases awareness and opens up whole new worlds," she says.

For more information about Que Pasa's summer Spanish classes for kids, special orders, special event space or general inquiries, call (414) 649-0460.

Note: Riverwest's Woodland Pattern Bookshop also offers a variety of Spanish language titles.

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