The Other Fair at the Havana Book Fair

Daisy Valera

The El Morro lighthouse. Photo: Caridad

On only one occasion have I gone this year to La Cabaña (the main venue of the Havana Book Fair).  I went through there in a hurry, since somehow the books from Cuban publishers made available at the fair have ceased to interest me.

I don’t think that they have bad books by any means, but I prefer to look for and buy old and rare books that some elderly people sell in their homes.

In short, like favorite colors, there are different tastes in books.

As I was saying, I went through there at full speed, stopping only to look at what was being presented by Frederic Engels Publishers, which saw to bringing the classic works of Marxism to the fair.

I left the La Cabaña Fortress and then went to the nearby El Morro lighthouse complex to enjoy the “other fair.”

Together with the Book Fair there is also an Artisans Fair, and this year I found it better than ever before.

They were selling everything from candles and incense to traditional clothes from different countries of Latin America.

One could find salespeople from Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and even Spain.

It was wonderful to enjoy the aesthetic diversity of Latin American; in no way does a Colombian handbag resembles one from Guatemala.

Nor are the colors they choose for making clothes or blankets the same.  Peruvian articles have rosier colors and more intense mauves.

One could also hear the different accents in the cries of the salespeople.

And if we talk about the prices, we can say that the exhibitors from the rest of America brought us cheaper products than the ones sold by the Cuban artisans.

To enjoy crafts in Cuba is a new event.  The island was never inhabited by Mayans, or Incas or Aztecs, so we don’t have the tremendous legacies of those cultures.

In that same vein, the raw materials used for making crafts in Cuba are scarce and expensive; I know this because one of my hobbies is making earrings using metal and stone.

I finished visiting the stands of the Artisans Fair with a smile on my face, as well as with the certainty that the Cubans who attended would feel a little closer to the tastes of people of this continent and with the desire to learn a little more about Latin America.

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