Nine days that shook the book world and made a whole city shimmy to the
sounds of son.
second-largest book fair on earth was swept up this year by an ola cubana, a
Cuban wave that charmed, fascinated, dazzled and enraged. The
visiting delegation of seven
hundred writers, artists, and other compañeros involved in the rich
culture of the island made it clear that this fair is about much more than
just books, or
just business. Is the FIL
a trade show? Yeah, sure—and the Grand Canyon is just a big ditch.
The FIL, with its hundreds of astounding cultural events for all ages, at
sites spanning a vast metropolitan area, is more like a World's Fair where
everything happens simultaneously and in a hurry.
So, what is the FIL? It all depends on who you are. To begin to get a feeling for the fair, wrap your mind around some raw data:
Some raw data:
There are many, many FILs—that of the foreign librarian seeking materials in Spanish: a big kid in the best candy store ever, wishing there was more allowance money in her pocket. The FIL of the readers, local people and travelers from around the world, who flock to Guadalajara seeking good buys and bracing discussion. The FIL of the children, many discovering the magic of books and reading thanks to the fair's festive ambiance and appealing special programs. The FIL makes room for intellectuals who want to debate and query famous authors, and for curious music fans who want to hear their favorites. The FIL is for students intrigued by literature and it's for the people who write the books; it's for merchants who hope to make a little money selling crafts outside the building, or to make a whole lot of money selling books and multimedia materials inside. The FIL serves teachers and learners, buyers and sellers, readers and writers, the old and the young.
Is it overwhelming? Of course it is. It ought to be. If you stick to the Expo center and the ALA hotels, you’ll miss a lot of the FIL; if you prowl the University of Guadalajara, the downtown events, the alternative happenings, as we did—you’ll still miss a lot.. No matter what you do and see at the book fair, you're going to overlook a lot more. And that’s the beauty of the thing.
Though a bit more antiseptic, the FIL is like a gigantic, famous market in the center of Guadalajara. It's so big, and so anarchic, it has two names: the Mercado Libertad, and the market of San Juan de Dios. Three levels and almost 3,000 different stalls, packed together, as bustling busy as an anthill. You could walk through the place fifty times and still not have a clue where everything is. Most of the vendors are grouped according to their merchandise: along here, leather goods and belts. Down there, blankets. A row of musical instruments...a dark constricted alleyway of pirated software, computer games, and videos...a plaza of eateries, distributed by genre with sections for ceviche, tortas ahogadas, juice drinks, Japanese food...the Great Wall of sides of beef and hog parts dangling in the open air...look, we know people have good reasons for flocking to shopping malls and Wal*Marts—Guadalajara has both—and it's no accident that one-size-fits-all ideas like that of a "core collection" have a similar, admittedly practical appeal. We know that. But the crowded, overloaded, overwhelming FIL, with all its commotion and its chaotic array of activities is a joyous celebration of humanity's surprising variety, a place where happy accidents and fortunate discoveries are on every bookshelf, just waiting for you to notice.