After 25 years of spending Thanksgiving weekend at the Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL), it still surprises and overwhelms a veteran bibliographer. This, the most important book event in the Spanish-speaking world, will host over 100 U.S. librarians and countless other profesionales del libro for 10 days.
Intense airport-like security did not deter the many book enthusiasts who crowded the domestic and international aisles on opening day. Commenting on the traffic jams caused by the visit of Israel’s foreign minister, a local taxista noted that he preferred it all than to blame Mexico if anything were to happen to anyone in the VIP delegation representing this year’s FIL featured country. Ya con los narcos es suficiente, alluding to the constant drug-related violence that gives Mexico negative publicity abroad.
This year FIL housed an active space for e-books with on-going presentations showcasing the latest electronic products. Will Mexican publishers sign-on this year? Indeed, Mexico lags behind Spain, Argentina, Colombia and Chile in e-book production. A vendor visiting FIL for the first time was amazed at the variety of publishers not yet available digitally, “I have lots of work awaiting me,” he confessed. We in the academic sector also await a more robust and stable digital content that our eager users expect. Even when the not so eager cling to paper, “los ebooks han llegado para quedarse,” said a fellow Mexican colleague. As they claim a growing presence in our bibliographic holdings, the challenge remains: how to archive them and make them available for future users.
The independent press seemed better represented than in previous years. In addition to the collective stand of Mexico’s “indies,” La Furia del Libro (which we had noted in late 2012) was included in the Chilean stand. Likewise, Colombia’s independent publishers were both at the collective national stand and had their own booth (also noted in an earlier posting this year).
Costa Rica, Ecuador and Peru had larger spaces than in previous years while Spain’s traditionally strong collective stand covered only a fraction of the country’s publishing output, a tangible sign of that country’s ongoing financial crisis. A colleague lamented the fact that Central America’s 2012 highly visible stand was no longer present, only Guatemala appeared to have a small booth.
Aisle “A” with multiple children’s literature offerings could attract the young and not so young. And Mexico’s rich culinary tradition was highlighted in books on chiles rellenos from UNAM’s academic press, to a taco encyclopedia or a glossy book from Artes de Mexico, with a dust jacket suggesting anything but cocina mexicana!
Sometimes surprising finds were unexpected. While waiting for a colleague at the Argentine stand the iconic Mother of the Plaza de Mayo on a book cover caught my attention. Indeed, it was an award-winning children’s book: Abuelas con identidad.
With an overwhelming series of events (conferences, book signings, concerts, etc) often the conversations were just starting to reach a high point when some arrived with a reminder that only a few minutes were left. Such was the case with a discussion of Cartas transpacíficas, an epistolary dialogue among two great public figures, the Lozoya brothers, one a diplomat educated in the US and the other a medical doctor who studied in the Soviet Union. “Tell them we’ll stay for their session and buy their book,” joked one of the panelists when told that the next group (in)patiently waited outside.
The exhibit Hebraica Texts at the Palafoxiana Libray, gathered unique treasures in honor of Israel as FIL’s featured country. The accompanying catalogue provided a window into the rich and unique holdings of Puebla’s noted rare book library.
Even outside the exhibit halls there were other book-related events. A group of bookarts supporters took a FIL break one afternoon to enjoy an exhibit of artist books. Favor de tocar showcased over 100 handcrafted books, product of a series of workshops hosted by Lia: Libro de Artista, a local collective of artists, printers and students of the art of the book.
FIL was to continue for several more days but an expected last minute excursion to the Instituto Cultural Cabañas closed my yearly visit to Guadalajara. Israeli photographer Gael de Cohen’s Amen presented 30 powerful images of Judaism, Christianity and Islam through the lives of ordinary Jerusalem citizens, all with an accompanying text that included the word Peace.
Only a few doors down the hall Pintando la Educación showed 40 paintings from a variety of Mexican artists used to illustrate school textbooks. I still remember the emblematic cover of the patria from my elementary school days in Northern Mexico.
Adan Griego, Stanford University Libraries