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Periplo Guatemalteco: Conociendo su Diversidad en un Viaje de Adquisiciones, Conferencia de Bibliotecarios y Mucho Más (Julio 2017)

Sección dedicada al libro guatemalteco en la librería SOPHOS

Hacía tiempo que ansiaba viajar a Guatemala: país de una diversidad cultural, paisajística y lingüística asombrosa. En Guatemala todavía se hablan 24 lenguas indígenas, el 41% de su población es indígena y su biodiversidad, con 14 regiones ecológicas, abruma por su belleza; de la selva en la región de Petén donde se encuentra el yacimiento arqueológico de Tikal, a sus costas pacífica y atlántica y las zonas altas de su interior con volcanes y el lago Atitlán. Este viaje a Guatemala fue posible gracias a la invitación de la Feria Internacional del Libro en Guatemala (FILGUA) donde participé en un taller para bibliotecarios y pude adquirir materiales para la biblioteca de la Universidad de Albany donde trabajo.

Mis primeros días de viaje fueron en Antigua (ciudad colonial Patrimonio de la Humanidad) en compañía de Walter Little, catedrático de Antropología Cultural de la Universidad de Albany. Les recomiendo vivamente realizar un viaje con un profesor de su universidad. Es una ocasión única para observar cómo llevan a cabo sus investigaciones. En el caso del profesor Little, su trabajo se ha centrado en los negocios mayas analizando con detalle los mercados y la conexión con aspectos como la globalización, el turismo y cuestiones de identidad cultural.
Antes de llevar a cabo un viaje de adquisiciones, siempre pregunto a los profesores y estudiantes sobre temas y títulos de su interés. Mi selección de materiales en las ferias del libro y librerías está guiada en gran medida por las sugerencias que me han enviado previamente. En esta ocasión, tuve la oportunidad de seleccionar material junto al profesor Little por unas horas. Acudimos a la Librería la Casa del Conde (Parque Central) donde seleccionamos libros para la colección. Entre las obras que adquirimos, destacaría la colección de libros sobre textiles guatemaltecos editados por el Museo Ixchel del Traje Indígena. Posiblemente no hubiera comprado toda la colección dado que desconocía su importancia pero el hecho de que el profesor resaltara la calidad de estas publicaciones me animó a comprarlos para la biblioteca.

Walter Little (catedrático de Antropología Cultural de la Universidad de Albany ) y Jesús Alonso-Regalado (Bibliotecario de Estudios Latinomericanos de la Universidad de Albany) seleccionando libros en una librería de Guatemala, Antigua.

Walter Little (catedrático de Antropología Cultural de la Universidad de Albany ) y Jesús Alonso-Regalado (Bibliotecario de Estudios Latinomericanos de la Universidad de Albany) seleccionando libros en una librería de Guatemala, Antigua. Abajo una imagen con Walter Little consultando una edición del Códice de Madrid.

Durante mi estancia en Antigua,  visité el CIRMA – Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica, una fundación guatemalteca no lucrativa dedicada al “rescate y conservación del patrimonio histórico, visual y documental de la región mesoamericana, con énfasis en Guatemala. “ Luisa Escobar (Directora de la biblioteca),  Anaís García (Directora de la Fototeca) y Thelma Porres (Directora del Archivo Histórico) me ofrecieron una visita detallada a estas tres áreas del centro. El archivo histórico contiene 121 colecciones, haciendo especial hincapié en la época contemporánea a partir de 1944. Destacaría los diarios como El Imparcial, el archivo de Inforpress Centroamericana, las colecciones relacionadas con el conflicto armado interno en Guatemala y los archivos personales de los presidentes Juan José Arévalo Bermejo (primer presidente elegido democráticamente en Guatemala) y el de su sucesor Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán.  La Fototeca Guatemala es el repositorio fotográfico más importante del país y cuenta con más de un millón de fotografías.

A Luisa y Anaís muchos las recordarán por su participación en la conferencia de SALALM LXI en Charlottesville, Virginia.  Su participación llevó el título de “Retos de la difusión del patrimonio documental guatemalteco en la era digital.”

Entrada principal y sala de lectura de la biblioteca del CIRMA – Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica

Entrada principal y Sala de Lectura de la biblioteca del CIRMA – Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica (imagen inferior)

Más adelante en mi periplo guatemalteco, tuve la suerte de poder visitar la Biblioteca Nacional gracias a una invitación de su directora, la Licda. Ilonka Ixmucané Matute Iriarte. Haroldo Zamora, subdirector de la Biblioteca Nacional, me organizó una visita en profundidad a sus instalaciones de las que destacaría su fondo antiguo. Guatemala no cuenta con un sistema de bibliotecas públicas y, por lo tanto, instituciones como la Biblioteca Nacional realizan también una importante labor propia de bibliotecas públicas con servicios como una sección infantil. Actualmente sigue en trámite una Ley General de Bibliotecas para el país. Como nota curiosa, durante los días de mi viaje, Jayro Bustamente, director de Ixcanul – uno de los recientes éxitos del cine guatemalteco en festivales internacionales –  se encontraba rodando su nueva película dentro de la misma Biblioteca Nacional.

Del 17 al 19 de julio, participé en un taller de profesionalización de bibliotecarios “Bibliotecarios para el Cambio” organizado por la FILGUA y las Bibliotecas Comunitarias Riecken. Al taller se inscribieron 100 bibliotecarios provenientes fundamentalmente de bibliotecas públicas y comunitarias pero también universitarias, escolares y de la Biblioteca Nacional. Las jornadas se centraron en el papel social para el cambio de las bibliotecas.  Resultó muy enriquecedor el intercambio entre bibliotecarios de distintos tipos de bibliotecas. Me hizo reflexionar sobre cómo entre todos podemos acercarnos a la ciudadanía y aunar esfuerzos desde nuestros distintos espacios. Mi presentación en el taller trató de ofrecer algunas ideas prácticas sobre cómo acercarnos a nuestras comunidades de manera efectiva: “Conectándonos con la Comunidad Local en Entornos Digitales y Presenciales

Participantes del taller de profesionalización de bibliotecarios “Bibliotecarios para el Cambio”. De izquierda a derecha: Valentina Santacruz (Asociación Bibliotecológica de Guatemala), María de los Ángeles Trujillo Guerrero (IBBY México), Raúl Figueroa Sarti (Presidente de la Feria Internacional del Libro en Guatemala (FILGUA) y fundador de F&G Editores) y al fondo Jesús Alonso-Regalado (bibliotecario de la Universidad de Albany, SUNY)


Esta edición de la FILGUA se dedicó a “El Mundo de Asturias”, conmemorando el 50 aniversario de la entrega del Nobel de Literatura a Miguel Ángel Asturias. Su hijo estuvo presente durante el taller y nos hizo entrega a los participantes de dos libros de su padre recientemente publicados (véase imágenes de las portadas en la imagen izquierda)
La XIV Feria International de Libro en Guatemala (FILGUA) tuvo lugar del 13 al 23 de julio de 2017 en Ciudad de Guatemala. La generosa invitación que recibí de la FILGUA me permitió seleccionar materiales para mi biblioteca durante tres días. Mi primera impresión fue de sorpresa. Me esperaba la feria más pequeña y pensaba que en un día la iba a poder recorrer con detalle pero me di cuenta pronto que para ver cada stand con detalle, libro por libro, tomaría al menos dos días completos.  Cerca de 70 expositores participaron en la feria.

Destacaría las siguientes editoriales que publican libros guatemaltecos de interés para bibliotecas universitarias:

  • Asociación para el Avance de las Ciencias Sociales en Guatemala (AVANCSO). Colecciones de interés son: Cuadernos de Investigación, Autores Invitados, y Textos para el Debate que presentan investigaciones tanto históricas como propias del campo de las Ciencias Sociales. Entre sus novedades señalaría Cadáveres de papel: los archivos de la dictadura en Guatemala y La violencia de antes está adelante…” Mujeres indígenas: su relación con la violencia y “las justicias”. Entre las publicaciones de su catálogo histórico, me gustaría señalar sus libros sobre el racismo en Guatemala y las obras del jesuita Ricardo Falla.
  • Catafixia Editorial. Especializada principalmente en literatura pero también publica libros en otros géneros como aquellos incluidos en su colección Memoriales, dedicada a la publicación de documentos y fuentes primarias para el estudio de la historia guatemalteca. Esta editorial cuenta ya casi con una década de trayectoria. Las ediciones de sus libros son cuidadas con mimo
  • Cholsamaj. Esta fundación publica libros especializados en lenguas, culturas y literaturas mayas. Universidades con profesores especializados en lenguas mayas deberían contar en sus bibliotecas con toda su extensa producción de diccionarios, gramáticas y otros materiales fundamentales para conocer estas lenguas.
  • Editorial Cultura. Sello oficial del Ministerio de Cultura y Deportes del Gobierno de la República de Guatemala. Su principal objetivo es difundir la literatura guatemalteca. Novedad destacable: Estética y política de la Interculturalidad: El caso e Miguel Ángel Asturias y su construcción de un sujeto popular interétnico y una nación intercultural democrática
  • F & G Editores. Editorial y distribuidora internacional, iniciada en 1993 (el próximo año celebrarán su 25 aniversario), que se ha consolidado como una editorial fundamental del libro guatemalteco. A lo largo de su trayectoria ha configurado un catálogo rico en títulos destacables tanto en las humanidades como en las ciencias sociales además de publicar obras importantes de autores literarios guatemaltecos. De sus novedades en lengua original publicadas durante el 2017 destacan Ru’x, Recuperar la política o perder el país. Las reformas desde el Congreso de la República y la segunda edición de Desde el cuartel: otra visión de Guatemala.
  • FLACSO Guatemala. La sede de la  Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) en Guatemala ha celebrado su trigésimo aniversario este año. A lo largo de este tiempo, su editorial ha formado un catálogo de calidad caracterizado por libros académicos rigurosos siguiendo métodos de investigación concienzudos. Entre sus novedades señalaría La guerra fría y el anticomunismo en Centroamérica.
  • Piedra Santa. Editorial con una trayectoria de sesenta años. Su catálogo se especializa en el libro infantil, ensayo popular y literatura. Para bibliotecas universitarias, su producción de mayor interés serían sus libros de literatura guatemalteca.

Las dos editoriales universitarias más prestigiosas del país  también estuvieron presentes en la FILGUA:

Algunas editoriales guatemaltecas dignas de mención no tuvieron un stand propio pero sí estuvieron representadas en espacios de librerías y distribuidores. Es el caso de las editoriales académicas de la  Universidad del Valle de Guatemala,  la Universidad  Francisco Marroquín,  y la Universidad Mesoamericana con varias publicaciones dedicadas a Mesoamérica, entre ellas una edición del Códice Madrid. Ejemplos de producción editorial privada serían el  Museo Ixchel del Traje Indígena  que publica libros de calidad sobre el textil guatemalteco y la editorial Serviprensa con novedades como el libro El Patio Trasero, reconstrucción de los sucesos políticos que sucedieron en Guatemala durante 2015 y que provocaron la caída del gobierno del exmilitar Otto Peréz Molina. Por último, me gustaría destacar el Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Fiscales especializado en investigaciones y análisis técnicos de material fiscal en América Central. Sus publicaciones se distribuían en la FILGUA gratuitamente en papel y también se encuentran disponibles en libre descarga desde su página web.

El libro electrónico no tiene una presencia que se note en la FILGUA. Esto puede ser debido a que el libro digital todavía no se ha desarrollado suficientemente en las editoriales guatemaltecas. Sin embargo, digno de mención son proyectos digitales como Memoria Virtual Guatemala. Tuve la oportunidad de acudir a una de sus presentaciones en su stand de la FILGUA. Se trata de un proyecto realizado por un conjunto de organizaciones guatemaltecas que facilita el acceso a información relacionada con la memoria histórica y el conflicto armado en Guatemala.  Este esfuerzo es admirable. Aúna un creciente número de objetos digitales con un robusto sistema de búsqueda.

La presencia de la producción editorial de otros países es mínima para una feria que se precia de ser un evento de ámbito internacional. No existe actualmente ninguna feria del libro que se haya consolidado como el evento ineludible para los bibliotecarios interesados en adquirir libros centroamericanos. Esperemos que ferias como la FILGUA puedan llenar este vacío en el futuro. Dicho esto, los stands de la Cámara Salvadoreña del Libro, el Instituto de Historia de Nicaragua (IHNCA) y de la editorial costarricense Uruk Editores me permitieron adquirir algunas novedades interesantes publicadas en estos países. Fuera del ámbito centroamericano, hay que alabar los esfuerzos de Chile por estar presente en un gran número de ferias del libro latinoamericano. La representación de la producción editorial chilena en la FILGUA fue discreta pero permitió acercarse a algunas de sus novedades.

El principal objetivo de la FILGUA es contribuir a desarrollar el hábito de la lectura en Guatemala y lograr la libre circulación del libro guatemalteco. Creo que este objetivo lo cumple con creces. La FILGUA no sólo es una feria sino un gran evento cultural que se acerca al público guatemalteco a través de foros,  mesas redondas, conferencias, cuenta cuentos, teatro, cine, danza, y presentaciones de libros, entre otras actividades. Es una feria alegre llena de niños y jóvenes a los que se les acerca al mundo del libro, la lectura y la cultura.

Para aquellos bibliotecarios que estén pensando en planear un viaje de adquisiciones en Guatemala, sugiero acudir a algunas de las librerías existentes en la Ciudad de Guatemala. Todas ellas cuentan con stand en la FILGUA pero merece la pena visitarlas fuera de la feria para poder seleccionar entre una mayor variedad de libro:

Solo tuve la oportunidad de visitar las librerías SOPHOS y Artemis. La librería SOPHOS cuenta con un excelente fondo de libros publicados en Guatemala y una buena selección de cine guatemalteco. Ojalá que otros bibliotecarios en el futuro puedan visitar las librerías que no tuve tiempo de conocer y compartan sus impresiones.

Por último, me gustaría animar a los bibliotecarios interesados en adquirir libros guatemaltecos a visitar la FILGUA. Merece la pena conocer su producción editorial de primera mano, conocer a sus editores, las librerías y en general el ecosistema del libro en Guatemala.

*Este viaje de adquisiciones fue posible gracias al apoyo de la FILGUA y la Universidad de Albany, SUNY.

Jesus Alonso-Regalado, University at Albany, SUNY, jalonso-regalado [AT] albany [DOT] edu

 

Book Report from the Southern Cone: Santiago and Buenos Aires

The long flight to the other side of the hemisphere had a Southern Cone touch with two award-winning films by Chilean director Pablo Larraín: ‘Jackie’ and ‘Neruda’ along with ‘Cien años de perdón,’ an Argentine-Spanish co-production.

After almost a five-year absence, this will be a 48-hour stay in Santiago. Although unplanned, the visit coincided with a small book fair, accompanied by a book festival with local bookshops staying open late. Similar events were also taking place in Lima and Madrid, all as part of the Día Internacional del Libro.

Located only two blocks away from my hotel, Metales Pesados is perhaps the best book shop in Chile, with co-owner and poet Sergio Parra, impeccably dressed in black, always ready to answer any inquiry about art and literature. This morning he is hosting some Colombian visitors but recognizes familiar faces from the United States already browsing at one end of the store. Later that day I will stop by to donate several copies of my New York Times Book Review, the ones I don’t get a chance to read and I carry on long flights hoping to catch-up. I can never bring myself to discard  them, always looking for an avid reader who will accept the weekly publication. This rainy Autumn day I have found such a character.

The shop carries both a broad selection of the country’s scholarly and independent publishing output and world art and literarure in translation. Today they are out of a title I saw at New York’s Latin American Studies Association (LASA) conference and I get a referral to the neighboring book store Prólogo, a block away.  The same street also houses La Tienda Nacional and a smaller outlet with several graphic novels, both local and in translation…then there is Ulises only two blocks away. But that would be after a visit to the museum nearby.

The late 19th century Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is one of the oldest cultural institutions in South America. Unfortunately today it’s closed for renovations and so is the book shop. But  the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, on the opposite end of the building, is showcasing an exhibit of late 20th Century Chilean art, Coleccion Mac: Post 90. One of the pieces on display Estudio para torrente altamente erótico is by José Pedro Godoy. A controversial exhibit of Godoy’s art a few weeks earlier had a piece stolen that was eventually recovered.

***

No longer raining, the second day will start with our local distributor and I visiting the Plaza de Armas (Main Square) in downtown Santiago for theopen air book fair, supplementing the previous day’s scholarly-heavy book outing. After lunch, it will be a visit to the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral, named for Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. It houses a bookstore among its many visual and performing arts venues. Today there is small lending library in the adjoining plaza between buildings with users encouraged to exchange books.

A last minute stop at Librería Ulises will round-up the visit to Santiago that was coming to end sooner than expected. Now it was time to (re)arrange luggage to accommodate several heavy books.

***
The two-hour Air Canada flight to Buenos Aires appears to be popular with porteños for a quick shopping weekend excursion to acquire goods less expensive than in Argentina. I was probably one of the few non-Mercosur passengers.

The Argentine capital hosted its own Noche de Librerías earlier in March and was now preparing for the 43rd Buenos Aires Book Fair, one of the oldest book events in the Spanish-speaking world. The city has been noted as the “book capital of the world,” with Avenida Corrientes (only three blocks from my hotel) home to several of those bookstores. As if there weren’t enough such cultural outlets, Avenida Santa Fe, not far away, has a new one. Plenty of places to spend the next four days book-hunting.

***
On a late Sunday morning most visitors to the Argentine capital visit the San Telmo open-air market. This bright sunny day seems to have attracted a large portion of Brazilian tourists in Buenos Aires. Arts and crafts, food, antiques, old photos and books, stamps, money bills, jewlry and all sorts of collectibles along with plenty of tango music and dancers can be found all over. Interestingly, in the 20 years I’ve coming here I had never noticed images of same-sex tango dancers (both men and women), this time both in filoteado art and photographs. Perhaps reflecting the recent Queer Tango movement.

The long walk was enough to work out an appetite long before the traditionally late lunch (and dinner) Argentina shares with Spain. On a previous visit I was invited to join a group hosting the president of the American Library Association for dinner (at 7pm). Later, his wife wondered why the locals had hardly eaten. Could it had been the high price? She wondered. A fellow California colleague and I would eat a salad at our usual dinner time (6pm) before joining porteños for a 9pm dinner.

Sunday’s are traditionally a family day and I often go to the movies, but this time I have arranged to meet a retired journalist friend. Where else? The coffee shop at the Centro de la Cooperación Cultural, which also happens to have a bookstore. A good excuse to arrive early and take notes/photos of the books/magazines not yet in our library collection. The next two hours would be a lively conversation on local socio-political issues, publishing, literature, books (print and digital). Then came the question about the United States presidential election outcome! But it was closing time at the Cooperación.

***
SALALM librarians had one more day before the Book Fair’s opening day. The Librería de Mujeres and Librería de la imagen, on the same street not far from the hotel, were a logical starting point. At both places we had to ring the door bell to be allowed inside. Initially, the staff seemed less than friendly at our group, turning immediately to the book’s bibliographic details and asking about removing the plastic wraps or asking to open the vitrine to see more expensive/limited edition books. In the end, they warmed-up to us after it became clear we were going to buy something!

After lunch it was a good time to run across Avenida 9 de Julio, right by the iconic Obelisk. I’ve never been able to cross all 14 lanes with one green light. The excursion was to the Centro Cultural Borges to visit a bookshop that had been closed the previous day. After buying a book on peronismo posters I hurried back to the hotel when I  wanted to take pictures of other interesting book covers and realized my Iphone was missing. I had left it in the room…what a relief!

***
The day we had all been awaiting was here. Los Angeles was the Ciudad invitada (Guest City), and the U.S. Embassy generously provided a shuttle to transport ten librarians from the United States on a book-buying trip as part of the many activities it was sponsoring for the event.  The next three weeks would book readings, music, and art showcasing LA culture. 

Clouds pointed to an approaching storm that arrived once we were inside La Rural Fair Grounds, a good reason to stay indoors all day and wonder from pabellón to pabellón (red, blue, yellow and green), if only the carpet’s color could point to where we were.

To close the Fair’s first day, our  group  visited a public library where we took refuge from the rain and enjoyed meeting local colleagues. Empanadas with a nice glass of Argentine wine was a great way to end the day. The Embassy’s shuttle provided a much-welcome ride back to the hotel on a rainy evening.

***
The next three professional days afforded the many book professionals uninterrupted time to become acquainted with a wide variety of books and publishers. At the combined stand of Argentine University Presses it was certain to meet a fellow SALALM colleague. In an apparent effort to highlight its return on investment, the stand displayed a big sing that read: “academic books represents 7% of Argentine publishing.” Still other librarians could be found at the Frente Latinoamericano Editorial, new this year. Independent publishers like La Sensación, Siete Logos and Todo libro es político (where I joked with one the staff asking  if having a beard was a prerequisite to work there)  were a good complement to scholarly titles from Prometeo, Biblos, Corregidor, Siglo XXI, Capital Intelectual and the Fondo de Cultura Económica. The latter confuses the country-based approval plans from many of our libraries as it publishes in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Spain.

For several years now, the Book Fair haa also hosted a series of related events during the professional days: for translators, academic publishers, children’s book illustrators and librarians. This year libraries will  play a key role beyond the professional days. The Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) was the official representative from California’s largest and diverse city. LA in BA showcased a library maker-space at the joint booth with the United States Embassy and LAPL members would be staffing the booth during the times the fair is open to the public.

I was probably boarding my flight back to California as local author Luisa Valenzuela delivered the keynote speech (video, text) at the opening ceremony. Her key words: Freedom, Empathy, Education, Inclusion are also ones that resonate with libraries on this side of the Equator.

Notes:
*See Facebook photo album with book covers on various subjects.

*The acquisitions trip was supported in part by Stanford’s Center for Latin American Studies, Stanford Libraries and the Buenos Aires Book Fair.

*Images: Feria del Libro Plaza de Armas, Feria Internacional del Libro de Buenos Aires, John Szabo (LAinBA).

Adan Griego, Curator for Latin American Collections, Stanford University.

Searching for the Right Book in Buenos Aires

42-feria-internacional-del-libro-buenos-airesBy the time the 42nd Buenos Aires Book Fair opened to book professionals, several of the librarians from the United States attending this year’s event had already visited many of the book spaces in a city known for its many book outlets. It was no coincidence that the hotel was only a few blocks away from Avenida Corrientes, still home to many a book shop in Argentina’s capital. Only a few weeks earlier the iconic street had showcased its legado libresco at La Noche de las Librerías, 2016salamistasBsAs a cultural event already in it’s 9th year.

For me, I was determined to find a book I had seen at a bookdealer’s catalog in San Francisco. The profusely illustrated, oversize hardcover proved to be quite an adventure: none of the main shops on Corrientes had even heard about it. At one of them it was suggested I consult Librería de la Imagen, whose specialty is local and importerd art books. But the store was already closed on a Saturday afternoon.librosargentiios

A few days later at the Fair’s exhibit hall I mentioned it to the shop’s owner and he had a vague notion about it but his bookstore did not carry it. When I finally secured a copy, thanks to our Library’s vendor, I showed it to the MALBA bookshop cashier who was equally impressed by the book and just as surprised about the limited distribution, ya sabe como son las cosas por acá, he said, agreeing with me that it would make sense for the Museum’s bookstore to have copies for sale.

As in previous years, academic presses had a very visible collective stand while several of the regional governments (provincias) were mostly housed in a large pabellón along with several other NGOs. A local dealer commented that given the new, more fiscally conservative government these entities may not have the same presence at subsequent fairs.

New at this year’s book fair: an on-site courier service that facilitated sending packages without leaving the exhibit hall and Nuevo Barrio, the aisle housing independent publishers with a combined output ranging from fanzines to libros artesanales and graphic novels. nuevo-barrio-feria-del-libro

By the time the fair closed its doors after a three week run, organizers reported having hosted 1.2 milion visitors, also announcing Los Angeles as Ciudad invitada for 2017.

Adan Griego, Curator for IberoAmerican Collections-Stanford University.

Attending Book Fairs: Why it Matters.

My first book buying trip happened without any strategic planning. A friend of a friend had an airline ticket for two people that was about to expire and I jumped at the opportunity to travel to Guadalajara, a city I had never visited in Mexico. Mine would be accommodating expenses at a modest hotel. I had a vague idea about a book fair going on during those dates but not much else. Little did I know that I was about to embark on one of the most transformative experiences any novice Latin American Studies librarian could ask for: attending Guadalajara’s Feria Internacional del Libro (FIL).

Guided by a generous friend, Professor Sarah Poot Herrera, I remember arriving at the entrance of FIL just as the famous Mexican writer Juan Jose Arreola was greeted by locals who had gathered to felicitate him as the winner of the Juan Rulfo Literary Award. Arreola had been my friend’s teacher and mentor. They greeted each other with a warm embrace, Felicidades Maestro, she said and then she introduced me to him. I could not say anything beyond mucho gusto. Later I remember feeling like a character from Arreola’s famous short story that takes a train to an unknown destiny as I entered FIL’s exhibit hall: an unexplored world inhabited books.

The following year I asked my supervisor for permission to attend FIL and purchase a few books. There was so much excitement when she agreed that I had not even contemplated logistics to ship materials back to the Library, so I carried them in my suitcases. The $600 spent would probably have taken twice as much from my constantly diminishing budget. It was during the grim years of the early 1990’s California economy. The FIL trip was one of the few rays of hope I remember from that period.

Since those early FIL days, I have attended other book fairs over the years: Barcelona and Madrid (for LIBER), Bogota, Buenos Aires, Lima, Mexico City, Santiago and Brazil’s Bienal do Livro in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.bookfairs2015B

*In Santiago one year Brazil was the featured country and the person in charge of the stand had heard about SALALM from a former colleague in Rio de Janeiro and gave me several publications with little commercial distribution. This has also been the case in both Bogota and Guadalajara with governmental agencies that cannot sell their publications and are pleased to know that libraries in the United States are eager to collect them. Some of them remember me and other library colleagues from year to year.

*As part of the first group of US Librarians sponsored by LIBER in 1999, I discovered a peripheral but vibrant LGBT publishing industry in Madrid that was not being covered by vendors supplying research materials to North American libraries.

*One year Sao Paulo publishers announced a Primavera dos Livros and I convinced colleagues from UCLA and UNC-Chapel Hill to attend. After a long silence from organizers, we found out the event had been cancelled. It was too late to cancel our trip and collectively we organized our very our Spring Book Fair with tips from other colleagues who had visited Brazil.

*In both Lima and Bogota I have visited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) whose ephemeral publications had limited print runs and an equally limited distribution. Even when freely available online, uncertainty about long term availability remained a critical issue. This was the key argument in securing a print copy for our library.

*At several of the book fairs, it was not usual to hear “get it now,” from a publishers and vendors. I was skeptical until I saw at the end of most books that 1,000 was the typical print run and in some cases, even half that much. Indeed, many titles have a limited public life: a book fair, a presentación at a bookstore, perhaps an ad in a cultural magazine and then unsold copies disappear and vendors reply to our constant claims for an unfilled order as descatalogado or agotado, indicating out-of-print. As the price of paper has increased, unsold copies are often shredded and the paper is recycled.

*In Buenos Aires one year several SALALM colleagues visited the Eloisa Cartonera workshop when the hand-made cartonero books were barely in the collecting horizon for academic libraries.arrebato

*At a recent LIBER book fair several librarians visited the Arrebato Libros book shop which specializes in poetry, fanzines and chapbooks, research materials absent from traditional vendor channels. LIBER also has a parallel antiquarian book fair both in Madrid and Barcelona that allows not only for out-of-print searching but also a learning experience to both novice and veteran librarians.

*On-site specialty bookshops (Librería de Mujeres in Buenos Aires) or timely topics (the ongoing polemic for Catalan independence from Spain) provide an oppurtunity for unique collection development.catalancovers

*In the last few years Guadalajara has also hosted La Otra FIL for alternative publishers and the LIA artist book fair, both independent events augment collecting possibilities.

*Our collective presence at book fairs has made it possible to facilitate dialogue with publishers and content providers and influence a digital offer suited to our libraries.

At all of these book fairs, vendors supplying books to our libraries have also been in attendance. Not only do they facilitate shipping of materials, they also learn first-hand what are the shifting scholarly trends.

I have attended presentaciones de libros, participated in local library conferences that have coincided with book fairs and spoken at panel discussions explaining book distribution channels to local vendors. Each of these experiences has been as enriching as that accidental first book fair attendance of 1992.

Adan Griego is Curator for Latin American, Mexican-American and Iberian Collections at the Stanford University Libraries.

Book Hunting in Lima.

The couple next to me cannot contain their enthusiasm: Chile’s has won the Copa America. “I also had to watch the game in English,” says the LAN flight attendant, equally excited. I don’t want to ruin their festive moment with a comment on the dark history of the national stadium where the game was played, also used as mass detention center in the early days of the Pinochet dicatatorship.

Instead, I tell them I saw the results online while preparing for a trip to Lima’s Peru Service Summit that would match local publishers and software developers (among others) to meet with potential compradores. It’s not the first time that librarians have been labeled as buyers, as much as we would like to be known as agentes culturales, or profesionales de la informacion, maybe even intermediarios del conocimiento.

It’s been more than ten years since my last visit to Lima, which now-a-days seems to be a top culinary destination, according reports as varied as a business daily, and even a men’s magazine.

The morning will start in the Miraflores section of the Peruvian capital with a tour by a local limeña. She understands my bibliographic obsessions. The first visit will be to Promsex: Centro de Promocion y Defensa de los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos, a well-established NGO that has issued several reports on women’s reproductive rights and LGBT issues. Their publications are now fully available online and are deposited at the country’s national library, much like any other local print publication with an ISBN. The limited print run of 500 copies is also distributed throughout the country, reaching those areas with limited internet access. We meet one of the group’s leaders who shares our concern for documenting the history of LGBT groups and other like entities.

virreybookstoreThe next stop will be the iconic El Virrey bookshop. My friend asks about some recent publications: Crónicas de la diversidad and Dulce Fanzin. The sales clerk recognized the first one, but the other one appears to have a somewhat erratic distribution, although it’s already been noted by other online publications. He directs us to La Libre, a book shop at Barranco, on the other side of town. Not wanting to wear out my host, I opt to come back later. I can spend hours on end, but there are more pressing matters, like a much deserved lunch break.

In search of a well-known restaurant, which is closed on Mondays, of course, we opted for another one across the street. There were only two tables left so the food must be good. The traditional lomo saltado, even with my dislike for onions, turned out to be as tasty as the one prepared by a good Peruvian friend back in California, “with the secret sazón of my grandmother,” she always noted.

The recent New York Times 36 hours travel section includes Barranco as one of the must-visit sections of Lima. We arrive one day too late, the independent presses have just had their first book fair and the bookshop we are searching for is closed on Mondays! What are we to do? Un buen cafecito…of course!

My friend suggests a traditional Barranco locale, where I ask for a café con leche. The owner says they don’t serve such a thing, nada mas café solo, he clariefies! That other one can be found by the opposite side of the park, without naming the well-known American chain with an “S.” Not my idea to savor something local, but we find a most unexpected place at an old train car converted into a coffee shop/restaurant where they do have café con leche.

The afternoon will end with a visit to Librería Inestable, already highlighted by Spain’s daily El País. I select several poetry chapbooks, some of which are missing a price. Since the owner is out of town, I will have to return a few days later.

latiendaBarrancoFor the next book hunting recorrido there will be three of us, Teresa Chapa (UNC-Chapel Hill) and Phil MacLeod (Emory), starting at Sur. We probably drove the sales clerk crazy with so many questions. The young man answered politely and patiently before we left, each with at least a book bag.

From there it would be to Barranco again, and La Libre has just opened for business. We spoke each other’s language…ours was probably their best sale ever. Hopefully it helped make up for the loss from a break-in of a few weeks earlier.

A Lima visit could not be complete without cebiche, and that was our next stop: Canta Rana just around the corner. Some local friends had other suggestions but that day we were lucky that Phil Macleod went ahead of us to get a table because there was already a growing line to find a seat. Even our lunch hour could not be complete without some book business. We were joined by the publisher of Paracaídas Editores. He was probably not expecting to sell all his books in one seating! Thanks to fellow SALALM member José Ignacio Padilla for the contact.

We are already running late for our next appointment on the other side of town at the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos where fellow SALALM librarian Virginia García is awaiting us. They also have a bookshop! From there, the taxi will bring us back to Miraflores to Contracultura, a graphic novel paradise where we will add more book bags. It’s past 7pm and the traffic is already heavy, if not would have visited one more shop before calling it a day.

peru-service-summit-2015Tomorrow is the start of two intense days of meetings with publishers at the Peru Service Summit. There will be the usual question about buying directly from a publisher and our explanation on the added services that a distributor can provide. Of course, there are always discoveries, like another independent press, with a most suggestive name Animal de invierno…or the press with profusely illustrated texts that are more than just another coffee table book.

Before embarking on the long flight back to California, there would be one more stop at our distributor’s office to review books not sent via our approval plan and check on new publishers discovered through a few days of book hunting in Lima. Both Teresa Chapa and Phil MacLeod will stay longer and visited a book shop recommended by Virgina at the Instituo de Estudios Peruanos. Communitas was not too far from our hotel and they both went on the day I was heading to the airport through an unending sea of Friday afternoon traffic. I am sure they will report on their treasure hunt!

Adan Griego
Stanford University Libraries.

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