El Paso’s Cinco Puntos Press sold to New York-based Lee & Low Books
Show Caption

The final chapter has been written for Cinco Puntos Press in El Paso.

The husband and wife team of Bobby and Lee Byrd sold its literary assets to New York-based Lee & Low Books.

The Byrds, who championed Chicano authors in their 36 years in business, announced the sale Monday morning, accompanied by family members and beloved authors, including Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

“We have known and admired the work of Lee & Low for many years. Like Cinco Puntos, their books celebrate and explore the wide tapestry of human cultures, ethnicities and experience,” said Bobby Byrd, 79.

He added that “most importantly to us, they will honor the legacy of Cinco Puntos and the extraordinary work of our authors and illustrators.”

“Yes, we are sad that Cinco Puntos is leaving El Paso but instead of disappearing, Cinco Puntos will be an imprint of their company.”

Lee Byrd, 76, said the couple had been contemplating the future of the publisher for several years. The coronavirus pandemic, however, gave them the push to act.

“We actually have been thinking about it for about three or four years. Bobby and I are both getting older and this was eventually going to play out,” she said.

“The pandemic really pushed it over the edge. We kept saying this isn’t working. We needed more resources and we couldn’t do it. And our sales got cut because the schools were shut,” she said.

Lee Byrd said the New York publisher, which is the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the country, has long been interested in Cinco Puntos, housed at 701 Texas Ave.

The publishing of Joe Hayes’ classic bilingual story book, “La Llorona/The Weeping Woman”; the Morris Award winner, “Gabi, a Girl in Pieces,” by Isabel Quintero; and Saenz’s “Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club” are among its success stories.

Lee Byrd said the independent publisher was founded by Chinese Americans who understand the importance of diversity and have long published books by creators of color.

“Here we are in El Paso and our thing has been Chicano literature and it’s a good fit for everybody,” she said. “They have a big educational market; they have deeper pockets and they know how to print off-shore.”

The publisher will add 130 titles to Lee & Low’s list.

While its good news for the Byrds, who will have time for other things, the announcement was emotional for some authors, who are now considered good friends. 

The publisher’s first book was Dagoberto Gilb’s “Winners on the Pass Line,” now a collector’s item, and the third book, “La Llorona,” by Joe Hayes, has sold more than 600,000 copies.

Other distinguished authors and artists from the Southwest region include Rudolfo Anaya, David Romo, their daughter Susie Byrd, Beto O’Rourke, Gaspar Enriquez, and the late Gloria Osuna Perez.

Saenz said winning the PEN/Faulkner Award for “Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club” was a highlight of his literary career and he credits Cinco Puntos Press.

“I was the first Latino to ever win that award and I would not have that award were it not for Cinco Puntos Press because publishers can only nominate so many books. At Cinco Puntos Press, I was the star,” he said. “They nominated that book and it was an incredible thing. I’m very proud of that.”

A party was planned from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, June 28, at the publishing company.

The inventory will go to Lee & Low Books by the end of the week.

More good reads: Book Nook, a place to enjoy reading, opens Friday at Sunland Park Mall

More: El Pasoan gives La Llorona a break from being a monster, making her a hero in new comic

María Cortés González may be reached at 915-546-6150; mcortes@elpasotimes.com; @EPTMaria on Twitter.