FIL: Bibliophile Paradise

Lucha Libre wrestler at FIL Palacio de Minería

Lucha Libre wrestler at FIL Palacio de Minería

What do you like about being a writer?

What do you like about being a writer?

Sunday, October 20, 11:30 a.m., FIL Monterrey

Sunday, October 20, 11:30 a.m., FIL Monterrey

Imagine a 194,000 square-foot Amazon warehouse (= 3.37 American football fields) designed for public shopping. Friendly sales assistants gladly chat or suggest a book. Throw in a bunch of writers and academics giving talks in half a dozen halls. There’s plenty of food and drink available at reasonable prices. Entrance to the event, including the presentations is free. In short, imagine Bibliophile Paradise—and it exists. At least, it existed October 12-20 at the Feria Internacional del Libro (FIL) in Monterrey, Mexico. I was among the estimated 250,000 visitors who turned out to browse the offerings from 600 publishing houses.  

Sunday, October 20, 12:30 p.m., FIL Monterrey

Sunday, October 20, 12:30 p.m., FIL Monterrey

The good news for Spanish-reading bibliophiles is that Monterrey’s International Book Fair is by no means the only one. These annual events take place in Mexican cities as small as Chihuahua and Acapulco and in most Latin American countries. Today’s FILs got their start back in the seventies and eighties. One of the oldest ferias is Buenos Aires’, first held in 1975. The next year, Mexico City had its first FIL. Monterrey is a bit of a late comer, starting in 1989. Today, Mexico City has at least seven, including one for Children’s and Young-Adult Literature and another for Anthropology and History.   

While Monterrey’s FIL is huge, it’s not the largest in Mexico. Guadalajara takes that prize. Last year over 700,000 visitors forked out 20 pesos (about $1.50 U.S. dollars) each to attend. Their 2013 feria, November 30-December 8, will likely surpass that number as visitors roam the 366,000 square-foot hall (= 6.35 American football fields). The Guadalajara FIL website proclaims they have “the largest market in the world for Spanish publications.”   

FIL Infantil y Juvenil

FIL Infantil y Juvenil

Meanwhile, the Buenos Aires FIL’s website purports to have, “The most important annual literary event in the Spanish speaking world.” With over a million visitors, BA appears to be the clear winner, but wait. Their 2014 FIL will run April 24-May 12 for twenty-two days while Guadalajara’s lasts a mere nine days.

The Feria Internacional del Libro Infantil y Juvenil in Mexico City takes the Children’s and Young Adult genres to a whole new level.  November 8-18 will be the thirty-third fair with an anticipated attendance of 350,000-400,000 at some 200 sessions. The FILIJ offers a “Bebeteca.” The word is a playful combination of bebé (baby)and biblioteca (library). There, pre-schoolers, elementary students and adolescents can see live music performances, puppet

shows and plays, listen to book readings and story-telling or create their own arts and crafts. They can watch illustrators of children’s books do live drawings or sit in funky chairs to read. There’s a poetry slam, a children’s orchestra performance and clown shows. Like Monterrey’s feria, it’s free.

For a price, the FILIJ offers a one-day conference for librarians and a two-day for booksellers and editors, plus a five-day class for illustrators, authors, editors and art directors. An October 25 check of the website showed a wait list for the one-day comic book writers’ conference which, at $140 U.S. dollars, was sold out.     

Mariana Ayala and Laura Fernández of Regia Cartonera

Mariana Ayala and Laura Fernández of Regia Cartonera

All the FILs have a lot in common. First and foremost are the oceans of books. Then there are the lectures by writers, the poetry readings, the children’s activities and the live music performances. Most importantly, they share a single, ultimate goal: to promote reading. Often, the primary sponsors are universities—Monterrey Tec, the University of Guadalajara, the National Autonomous University of Mexico City, in conjunction with businesses or government entities.

Some of Latin America’s best-known writers speak at the FILs. In Monterrey, I sat in an audience of roughly 350 for a talk by Armando Fuentes Aguirre, known as “Catón” in the over 150 newspapers in which his syndicated columns appear. Unfortunately, I missed the Q & A sessions where a writer sat in an easy chair (see photo at top) and participants could ask questions. A search of various FIL websites turns up 2013 appearances by top-of-the-game Mexican authors like Pablo Ignacio Taibo II, Xavier Velasco and Elena Poniatowska plus Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa, 2010 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. My favorite ad is for the 2014 FIL Palacio de Minería in Mexico City (February 19-March 3) where the reader is decked out in classic macho lucha libre gear.      

2013 FIL Monterrrey

2013 FIL Monterrrey

Just imagine a FIL New York or San Francisco or Denver where Barbara Kingsolver and Khaled Hosseini give free presentations and for PR Peyton Manning poses with his favorite book and the caption “Live the passion for reading.” Now that would be a Bibliophile Paradise.

 

 

 

 

 Video ad for 2013 FILIJ:

Video of 2012 FIL Guadalajara:

 

Comments

  1. Wow, this looks like something I’d really enjoy attending! Thanks for telling us North Americaners about it!

  2. Great article, Leslie!

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