For most North American academic libraries Cuban books have taken a detour to Uruguay before arriving at our shelves. With changing relations between the United States and Cuba, there is already renewed scholarly interest in the Caribbean island. Hence a visit to the Montevideo bookshop where much of that research material is being sorted. Two days was barely sufficient to review missing titles from our collection. In the process, finding equally interesting research materials from other parts of Latin America.
The ferry across the Rio de la Plata was to take only two-hours, in the state of the art Papa Francisco Buquebus, prompting my Montevideo friends to call it a viaje santo. It was much longer and I missed a visit to the San Telmo open air market in Buenos Aires, where every visitor to the Argentine capital appears to end up on a late Sunday morning. Several years ago I found a vintage photo of 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.
The hotel is a few blocks away from that book corridor on Avenida Corrientes, between the Obelisk and Callao street, proof of what some press reports have noted : Buenos Aires has the highest person to bookstore ratio in the world.
What better way to spend a late autumnal afternoon than book-browsing. Last year, one of the first ones I saw was a book written by a friend. I could not bring myself to tell him it was on sale!
Even some of the side streets house book shops. The one-block Paseo Rivarola probably goes unnoticed by most visitors to Buenos Aires. In one of those symmetrical 1920 buildings is the Librería de Mujeres. I ring the doorbell and an older lady unlocks the door, immediately asking: Qué busca? I tell her I want to see everything. Still not quite convinced that a middle-aged man would find something of interest, she points to a few sections and off I go in my incessant note-taking of interesting book titles, until I realize I could take photos of several book covers at once and not have to worry about deciphering my less and less understandable handwriting.
The 41st Buenos Aires International Book Fair opens today and there is a sense of anticipation among the group of U.S. librarians attending this year. Prior to departing we received an avalanche of requests from publishers asking for a meeting. I opted to invite them to attend a session where we would explain the dynamics of book distribution and acquisition by public and academic libraries. They listened attentively to our presentation.
Large media groups command the most visible of the various pabellones, typical of any such event. But independent publishing seems to be alive and thriving in the Southern Cone (Todo libro [no] es politico; Sólidos Platónicos and Siete logos). It appears to be the same in Spain.
At a time when print publications struggle to stay afloat, it’s almost anachronistic to have a new cultural magazine aimed at the inmesa minoría, as the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset would note. The recently launched Review: Revista de Libros, a Spanish translation of the New York Review of Books with original content in Spanish. The publisher says the premier issue has a print run of 15,000 copies and is selling well, even outside of Buenos Aires. During my long overnight trip back to the Northern hemisphere, while crossing the Equator, I will read a Spanish-version of Alma Guillermo Prieto’s piece on the disappeared Mexican student-teachers.
Waiting for the last connection of my flight to California I find one of the newspaper articles I saved from Argentine dailies: poetry appears to have as many readers as militants. Viva la poesía. Viva la Lectura. Vivan los Libros!
Adán Griego-Curator for Latin American Collections, Stanford University.
*Trip partially funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI and the Buenos Aires Book Fair.
Sunday, April 19th. Not too much traffic on Avenida del Libertador yet. It is, after all, barely past noon on a Sunday. “Lindo dia,” I say to the taxi driver, “es un domingo peronista,” he replies. When I ask why, he proceeds to tell me how politicians used to gather after a typical Sunday “asado” and some good Argentine wine, to plot “como joder al pais…” then adds, “como los de ahora…” Who would have thought that simple weather question would uncover such deep political sentiments, which appear to have been building up for some time now.
Soon we arrived at my destination, the Recoleta section of Buenos Aires, probably best known for the cemetery where Evita’s tomb is located and home to a home of trendy shops, restaurants, and museums. A few Salamistas are in town already for the annual book fair and I have just run into Alfonso Vijil, later that afternoon we will run into the Karnos at the Museo de Arte Hispanoamericano Isaac Fernandez Blanco
I will have my yearly dose of “asado” before visiting the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes for an exhibit on Martin Fierro, the 1920’s avant garde publication. Wondering through the exhibit, I cannot help to think about a forthcoming event in California where Stanford and Berkeley will host a joint exhibit in September 2010 to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Bicentennial and the 100th Anniversary of the Revolution. My ongoing dreams about Pancho Villa, Emilino Zapata, and independence heroes Vicente Guerrero and Xavier Mina are a constant reminder that the due date approaches. At least mine are “heroic dreams,” not nightmares.
Monday, April 20th. This morning Phil MacLeod (Emory University) and I will follow a “recorrido libresco” up Avenida Corrientes home to many a bookstore. A pre-book fair outing that will supplement what awaits us the next day. It’s more manageable to visit “librerías” that carry the kind of materials of interest to an academic audience like ours.
Asunto Impreso’s Librería de la Imagen appears to be closer to our hotel than in previous years, perhaps is the pleasant weather that makes the recorrido seem less cumbersome. Along the way we stop by the place where last year I found the movie outlet Blackman, familiar to us all for it’s wide selection of Argentine films. But the office is closed (it’s past 11:30am and there is no indication of when it will open).
When we arrive the art bookstore, Alfonso Vijil is just leaving and points to the new women’s bookstore next door. It’s the one familiar to SALALM members from its previous location on same street where the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo also have their coffee/book shop.
I alert Phil that books will all be wrapped in plastic and we’ll have to ask the staff to unwrap them. Surprisingly, not all of them are and we are able to browse at the “novedades” shelf with much ease. Perhaps the publisher headed my plea a few months ago at the Bogotá book fair when I complained, actually, suggested that at least an “ejemplar de muestra” be available.
I jotted down several titles, and purchased one for the library the bilingual book *Arte naïf : libros de notas : una visión poética de la vida : 34 artistas Argentinos (OCLC: 47841717), although this is a special edition in a case and with some original prints.
For my own collection I purchase: *Body Politics. Políticas del cuerpo en la fotografía latino-americana (OCLC: 495778935); and *Desnudos sudamericanos (OCLC: 516281697), which appears to be available also as a photo portfolio, but that’s beyond my budget. A set of the photos has been on exhibit in Los Angeles until just a few days ago.
We now move next door to the women’s bookshop, where I take down many more titles, which I will have to reconstruct from memory since I lost my ubiquitous notebook on the last day of the fair!
On the way back to the hotel, I recognize the restaurant where last year Teresa Chapa (UNC-Chapel Hill) and I had our very own “comida casera,” It’s just before the lunch rush hour and we go in for an early meal so that we can make it on time for the matinee showing of this years Oscar winner for best foreign film, EL Secreto de tus ojos, which just a few days ago has opened in selected cities in the United States.
For dinner I will meet a friend from my UC-Santa Barbara days. He lives in the northern section of Belgrano and does not teach on Mondays and has agreed to meet me for an early dinner, early for him, but way too late for me at 8:30pm.
Tuesday, April 21st. Today will be the second part of our “paseo imperdible” up Avenida Corrientes, this time all the way to the Callao intersection….looking for…..books, what else. The vibrant publishing industry of Buenos Aires has been recognized by the Ministerio de Desarrollo Económico not only as a worthy enterprise but also one of commercial value celebrated with a “Noche de Librerías”.
Our first stop will be Antigona, which has expanded into the Centro Cultural de la Cooperación that houses a series of performance spaces and a coffee shop. We spend most of the morning there, probably annoying other customers with our constant “have you seen this book? And this other one?” But, Phil will have to fill in the blanks…. my notes are gone in that notebook I lost on my last day at the book fair.
After lunch, I take a well deserved rest and catch up reading the dailies I have accumulated during the past 48 hours: La Nación, The Buenos Aires Herald and the Argentine edition of Spain’s El País. There is already some press coverage of the book fair that opens the next day, one day shorter for the “días de profesionales,” but still 3 weeks for the general public.
Wednesday, April 22nd. Our visit to the fair grounds at La Rural will start with an early bus ride at 8:30am. The group of 7 Reforma and SALALM librarians and a few other US distributors is being generously supported by Fundacion ExportAr. After a brief meeting/reception with book fair dignitaries, some of us will hit the aisles, while others will meet publishers. Our task for the next 2 days will be, “comprar, mucho, pero mucho” as we have been instructed by our hosts,
During one of the first meetings with publishers when I explained that we work with distributors, he gave me a copy of booklet on the Editores del Plata, which brings together several independent publishers in an attempt to compete with both large publishers and distributors.
Thursday, April 23rd. Today will be a continuation of the previous day, meeting with publishers, visiting stands, check the OPAC…. While visiting the almost hidden section that housed the combined regional Argentine research centers I saw fellow SALALMista Peter Alterkrüger from Berlin’s Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut. He did not see me until the following day when I was madly in search of my lost notebook.
To end the evening it will be dinner with one of SALALAM’s vendors in Uruguay (Luis and Carlos Retta). They seem to have convinced Colombian vendor Angela Silva Castillo (Siglo del Hombre) to attend the upcoming Brown conference this July. She already who knows several SALALMistas from the Bogota and Guadalajara book fairs.
Friday, April 23th. Last day, which we know share with the general public. I am seated by the Clarín stand, which competes with La Nación, not only for daily readers but also for space at the fair main entrance. I am joined at my table by a pair of older ladies with whom I share my copy of La Nacion’s literary supplement, adn Cultura “lo importante es leer, no importa que sea de la competencia,” says one of them. When I ask what time it is, the other one shows me her watch and says, “elije vos a tu gusto,” the same response she got from a youngster when she asked the same question. It’s almost 6pm and the closing reception for “Profesionales” is about to start, so I bid my farewell to them as they join the thousands of “porteños” who have come to “curiosear,” through all the many aisles overflowing with books.
Saturday, April 24th. One last minute visit will be to a DVD store that sells a variety of Argentine films. We thought they opened at 10am and arrived promptly at 10:05. When the sales clerk arrived at 10:15 and saw 2 SALAMistas and 1 Reformista, I thought he would close the door and wait until 10:30. But he welcomed us inside the small locale. Little did he know that we would drive him crazy: me asking for the same movies that Phil had bought a few days earlier and Alfonso Vijil saying he also wanted a set…plus a few more he needed.
If my Buenos Aires trip started with a visit to a museum, it was very fitting that it should end with a similar visit, to the MALBA’s show on art of the Cuban avant garde. I had no more room in my carry on luggage, so I exercised restraint while visiting the museum bookshop. Besides, I was already late for the hotel check out and would be heading for the airport soon.
As I mentioned earlier, I lost my notebook with multiple book titles and diary entries, but here are some titles of interest. For public and academic libraries:
*Editorial Capital Intelectual
El Atlas III: Un mundo al revés. De la hegemonía occidental al policentrismo. It’s part of series that includes Atlas de las religiones (OCLC: 497187406, already at Los Angeles Public Library); and Atlas del Medio Ambiente. They are translated from the French by Le Monde Diplomatique and can be a good reference source.
*Editorial el Maizal has a series of books on various aspects of Argentine life: tango, wines, gauchos as well two others on native Mapuche culture
*From La Marca Editores the Registro Gráfico series includes some bilingual titles that supplement those from Maizal above.
*Editorial Heliasta has several dictionaries on law and business, some bilingual (see the diccionarios section at their site)
*Retina Editores has an interesting book, Potrero, on soccer culture in Argentina’s working class neighborhoods (OCLC: 271111308).
For Academic Libraries:
From Retina Editores,
SANGRE/ BLOOD: Buenos Aires – Rio de Janeiro -México DF – Medellín (by Diego Levy) documents violence throughout some of the major metropolitan areas in Latin America.
Poesía diaria: porque el silencio es mortal (a series of “desaparecido” notices that appeared in the daily Página 12, OCLC: 213098498)
From Editorial Aquilina
A series of detective fiction titles seemed to be of potential interest to our literary clientele, especially 1-2 graphic novels. A virtual browsing through their recent published titles is possible, giving it “hip” sense of it all, right?
You can also see read some of the “prensa” generated by this new/independent publisher.
Photo of SALAMistas courtesy of Luis Retta.
L-r: Phil Mcleod, Carlos Retta, Adan Griego, Alfonso Vijil, Luis Retta and Angela Silva Castillo.
Closing reception photo courtesy of Maria Kramer (Redwood City Public Library, California)
This year saw a small but active group of SALALMistas at the 35th International Buenos Aires Book Fair. Teresa Chapa (University of North Carolina) and Adan Griego (Stanford) retraced their adventure to Libreria Asunto Impreso. Unlike last year, Adan was not climbing up ladders or fighting with fellow SALALMistas for copies of books, as was the case at the Belleza y Felicidad Gallery a few years ago during a visit to the Eloisa Cartonera book project. He did ask to un-wrap a few art books he bought for his own collection at home. Not sure why ALL the books were wrapped.
After some “comida casera” in the neighborhood, the adventurous librarians headed to Papelera Palermo in search of some artist books, but the fine arts press side of the bookstore is no longer in operation. So a visit to La Boutique del Libro bookshop was a welcome stop to end the afternoon. The bookstore’s founder had just been honored the night before as the “librero del año” by Book Fair organizers.
Angela Carreño (New York University) visited the collective stand of academic presses and probably by the time she got to the combined stand for cultural journals there were some gaps since Teresa Chapa had already acquired complete sets of several titles. Gata Flora, Nomada, Otra Parte, Ojos Crueles, Todo es Historia, Las Ranas,
TDI: Teatro Diseño Inovación, and Planeta Urbano stood out among those on display.
Not all were book adventures, some were almost out of a Larra text: Phill Macleod (Emory) experienced a “vuelva usted mañana” moment at the American Express office in his attempt to secure funds and be able to purchase materials at the Fair. But the next day he was eagerly acquiring books for his library….after he spoke to the manager, perhaps?
SALALM vendors were present as well. Alfonso Vijil was seen hauling a large suitcase full of books.Luis Retta and Marcelo Garcia Cambeiro were spotted having a coffee…perhaps discussing upcoming budget cuts from their US customers while Alvaro Risso stood guard at the Camara del Libro de Uruguay stand. Nicolas and Anna Rossi, Danilo Alvero, Linda Russo and Carlos Castellanosexplored the many stands to catch any “novedades” being launched at the Fair this year.
Also in attendance were several Reforma colleagues from public libraries in San Antonio, San Francisco, Oakland, District of Columbia, Redwood City (CA), Chicago, Los Angeles and Brooklyn. The visits were made possible with support from the Fundación el Libro, and the Fundación Exportar.
There were many other panels scheduled to coincide with the Fair. By accident I walked into a “mesa redonda” on the Google Book Search Project, a similar discussion the previous year had a SRO audience but this time it was less than ½ full. Perhaps some of the same points had already been addressed in the past few days at 3rd Meeting of Latin American Book Dealers. Nonetheless, it proved to be quite a lively discussion. One of the speakers (from a regional academic press) had given all its content to Google with no consultation from the authors. A legal scholar from the University of Buenos Aires in the audience argued that such action was a clear violation of intellectual property laws. Meanwhile, the panelist from Google re-iterated (more than once) that the content resided in a very secure Google server not on the Web for all the see/read/download.
The previous day this same room had experienced an overflow crowd that would have violated many a building fire code as eager attendees to Argentina’s Library Association Conference (ABGRA) had come to listen to presentations entitled: Servicios,Tecnología y Acceso a la Información . The topics covered locally developed innovative ways of providing services (book renewals via a cell phone) and one on Information Architecture by a young and dynamic presenter sponsored by the US Embassy in Argentina, the type of cultural diplomacy our country needs to continue supporting.
As in previous years, librarians from the United States participated in the ABGRA Conference. Fellow Reformista Alvaro Sanabria (San Francisco Public Library) talked about how the SFPL system has developed its Spanish library collections and the multiple services it provides to users.
This time I presented to a group of school librarians: “El usuario que viene: un acercamiento a ésta nueva generación digital.” The talk was well received and I am sure other talented SALAMISTAS can contribute presentations to future ABGRA meetings as Paloma Celis Carbajal (University of Wisconsin), Anne Barnhart (UC Santa Barbara), and Patricia Figueroa (Brown) did last year or as Carlos Delgado (UC Berkeley) did for several years. ¡ANIMENSE!, el mundo es ancho, y no tan ajeno!`