Held aloft with the breath of magic, memorable children’s books possess an almost intangible chemistry in the unspoken dialogue between text and illustration. Not unlike chasing the holy grail, unearthing the elusive potion that makes a title truly special casts a spell on those susceptible to its unique charm.
Enter Enrique Moras, founder and CEO of Wilmington’s Syncretic Press, a man bewitched by the allure of discovering, developing and distributing quality literature. As an independent publisher of children’s books in Spanish, Syncretic Press promotes titles that celebrate creativity, diversity and curiosity through partnerships with authors and illustrators from primarily Spanish-speaking regions around the globe.
Originally from Uruguay, Moras launched the small press four years ago after a long career in finance. “At one point, I realized that I wasn’t very fulfilled,” he recalls. “I had several plans on the side, because when you work in Corporate America, you often think, ‘What would I really like to be doing?’”
With no publishing background to speak of but fueled by a lifelong interest in the industry, Moras traded a guaranteed paycheck for the mixed bag and many hats of running a small business.
What drives him is a deep passion for literature and its impact on young minds. With a degree in history as well as finance, he remembers spending much of his free time figuring out how to present challenging topics, such as historical figures or events, to children. “That’s how much of a history geek I was,” he teases.
He and his wife, Karen, have two young children, a daughter who is 8 and a 6-year-old son. Moras recalls reading books with his daughter that tackled tough questions, such as what happens after death.
“Children are very smart creatures; they understand quite a lot,” Moras says. “I think sometimes adults tend to simplify things too much for children. It’s something that we’re very mindful of at Syncretic Press. We prefer books that generate questions rather than those that provide answers.”
Providing Spanish-language children’s books to U.S. schools and libraries, Syncretic Press occasionally touches on the issue of cultural stereotypes. “For example, if it’s a book from Spain, there is sometimes an expectation that the ladies should be dressed in long red gypsy gowns as they dance the flamenco down cobblestone streets with bulls running behind them,” Moras explains. However, by addressing such misconceptions through literature featuring diverse lifestyles and viewpoints, the publishing house’s offerings present a window into cultures that rise above superficial representations.
Enrique Moras is the founder and CEO of Syncretic Press in Wilmington, an independent publisher of children’s books in Spanish that celebrates diversity and curiosity.
Syncretic Press also aims to reach different audiences, distributing works cherry-picked from small South American publishers to fatten its catalog. Fielding requests for English-language versions of popular children’s books written in Spanish prompted Moras to develop a team of translators and editors tasked with bringing some of those works to life in English.
“It’s very critical that these are not just translations but remain pieces of art on their own,” Moras says of the process. “Some stories are very straightforward, so there’s not too much of a challenge. Others, because we felt we couldn’t capture the same essence, cannot be translated.”
Looking forward, Moras hopes to continue publishing more children’s books in English, as well as adult-themed books such as Between the Lines, featuring provocative works from cartoonist Marcos Severi, and Vote and See, an exploration of democracy with Uruguayan farmer and former president José “Pepe” Mujica, who was imprisoned for 12 years during the country’s military dictatorship of the 1970s and ‘80s. Both have won awards in the categories of current affairs and politics, among others.
“These titles are a definite departure from our general focus,” Moras says. “But that’s the exciting part of this business, being able to venture into these other areas with Spanish children’s books as our core.” Regardless of the genre, Syncretic Press will continue to value title quality over title quantity. A self-identified optimist, Moras says he always thinks that the next book he publishes will be the most phenomenal.
“Even though this may reduce the number of books we publish each year,” he admits, “we need to believe that each title we decide on is the best book ever!”