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New book publisher out of WNMU aims to be a platform for Southern New Mexican authors

Jay Hemphill
The campus of WNMU in Silver City.

On the edge of the Gila Wilderness lives the newly formed Mimbres Press out of Western New Mexico University in Silver City, where its members are striving to create an environment where authors can thrive. In a world where so few publishers control so much of the market, the goal of Mimbres Press is to be a destination for voices in southern New Mexico, according to WNMU President Joseph Shepard.

“I see it as a long-term investment that will benefit this region for generations to come,” he said. “Our focal point is on the Southwest, is on the rich history of the Mimbres people, on the Spaniards who mined this area, on the rich history of descendants of our Mexican population who came from the southern regions of this continent. There wasn’t anything [like this] available until the Mimbres Press came to be.”

As a university press, Shepard said they can publish more unconventional works as opposed to privately owned publishers.

“We’re able to do poetry, we’re able to do [photography], we’re able to do modern sorts of multimedia,” he said. “That’s why it’s important that here in Silver City, here in this part of our state, here in this part of our country, that we celebrate the culture around us, and we codify that forever in the written word.”

Mimbres Press out of WNMU aims to be a platform for Southern New Mexican authors

According to author and board member Rus Bradburd, Mimbres Press is aligned to help fill the void in the borderlands left by Cincos Puntos Press, which was bought out by a New York-based publisher.

“Cincos Puntos Press was probably the most important press on the border in America in the last 30 years, and now with them being bought out by New York companies, who’s going to tell these stories? Who is going to pay attention to these stories? Mimbres Press seems to be, just by chance, the timing of it seems to be perfect,” he said.

As the global publishing market continues to grow, so does the influence of the industry’s largest publishers. The Wall Street Journal, citing data from NPD BookScan, reports that Penguin Random House accounted for a quarter of all print book sales in the United States, with other major publishers also soaking up much of the sales.

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Jonny Coker
Rus Bradburd works at his Las Cruces residence.

Bradburd said that while there are monetary advantages to working with larger publishers, smaller publishers are able to give authors more personalized attention. And despite being unable to compete with large conglomerates, it's important for small publishers to keep telling the stories of their local areas for the sake of preserving their culture and the voices of their authors.

“In the same way that California controls the movie industry, New York seems to control the publishing industry. But there’s countless stories that need to be told that are coming out of these areas. So I think there will always be a need, in the same way that local radio and local news are important, local publishing is hugely important as well,” he said. “I think many great writers of the Southwest, from Lee K. Abbott to Bobby Byrd, to Lee Byrd to Denise Chavez, their writing is often tied into the land and the history and the culture. It’s not just the people but also the area and the geography that are also important to [these] stories.”

For Marvel Harrison, Publishing Director of Mimbres Press, the press is a way to highlight the issues around the Gila, and more broadly, the Southwest.

“I think our location close to the border creates opportunities for border issues which continue to be major world issues. Silver City is a small town, but there are world issues here, there are border issues, there’s no reason that we shouldn’t be very alert to issues of climate chaos and what’s going on because we thrive so much on the natural beauty around us,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of ways that we need to be respectful of, and honor where we are, and the history of who’s been here.”

According to its members, the Mimbres Press is an investment in infrastructure, to allow underrepresented voices to be amplified, and ultimately preserved.

Jonny Coker is a Multimedia Journalist for KRWG Public Media. He has lived in Southern New Mexico for most of his life, growing up in the small Village of Cloudcroft, and earning a degree in Journalism and Media Studies at New Mexico State University. Jonny believes that access to news and information is essential for a smoothly functioning society, and public media is one of the best ways to spread that knowledge.