We are readers
These are the faces of the future; what is feeding their intellectual curiosity?
Over a hundred young Mexicans have lined up outside Guadalajara’s Expo center on a weekday afternoon, anxious to enter the Feria International del Libro. They have another hour to wait, as the day portion of the book fair is reserved for professionals. I myself registered as one, and for three days, walked the extensive aisles of booths where publishing houses from all over the Americas set up shop for a full nine days of exhibiting, negotiating, and selling. From academic books to children’s literature, art books, foreign titles, national classics, boxed sets to series- this convention center boasts a mega showing of Spanish language literature-the largest in the world. Deals are brokered while colloquiums for librarians and buyers explore topics like “Incentives for the Development and Modernization of Bookstores in Mexico” to “Reading Development in Latin America: Successes, Tensions, Contexts and Challenges.”
Come 5pm, book presentations, round tables and author talks begin and run until 9pm when the fair closes, only to divert visitors to the huge tent next door where a series of nightly concerts are offered. Chile, this year’s guest country, is spotlighting its top talent; lights illuminate the thousands of heads who have come to soak in every bit of culture offered to them for free.
Gepe y Pedropiedra perform an eclectic set-a mix of electronic, rock, rap and batucada-for an enthusiastic crowd
Yet one looming question remains: with the price of the book so high in Mexico and most of Latin America, to the point of making it essentially inaccessible for most of the population, what real access do people have to literature? Library culture is distinct from that of the American model; visitors can’t yet bring books home in most cases. The lending is limited to reading in situ.
Perhaps for these reasons, the public pours in in insatiable numbers, over 600,000 ears hungry to hear, to experience, to consume the opportunity. But how many of them will actually be able to walk out with books in hand? That part remains a mystery. Perhaps this year’s motto, “Somos Lectores” serves more as an affirmation of what this public hopes to become, of a potential that has yet to be met.