Rueben Martinez
4 Images

Cultural gem

Rueben Martinez, owner of Libreria Martinez Books and Art Gallery in Santa Ana, might have to close his shop by year’s end despite the store’s renown as one of the nation’s largest Latino-themed bookstores.“I knew I was never going to get rich selling books,” Martinez says. “But the crowds are not what they used to be.” (Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times)
Analina Moy, 35, of Huntington Beach shops at the Libreria Martinez Books and Art Gallery in Santa Ana. The Latino-focus shop has hit tough economic times familiar to many independent bookstores and may be forced to close in three to six months. (Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times)
Rueben Martinez sits in a vintage steel-and-leather barber’s chair, a gift from an admirer to remind Martinez of his 30 years of cutting hair before he opened Libreria Martinez. He has been paying rent from his personal savings and maintaining a hectic schedule of speaking engagements at colleges and universities, using the proceeds to sustain the stores in Santa Ana and Lynwood. (Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times)
Libreria Martinez Books and Art Gallery started as a shelf in Martinez’s barbershop in 1993 and has grown into a Santa Ana institution with an international draw, bringing in hundreds of authors, such as literary giants Isabel Allende, Julia Alvarez and Carlos Fuentes, and high-profile speakers, including Nobel Peace Prize-winning Costa Rica President Oscar Arias. (Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times)
1/4