My Days at the Book Fair

Osmel Almaguer
Osmel Almaguer

Participating as a worker at the Cuba International Book Fair has given me a different view of the event than as a visitor. Before, I came every year just like the public, buying books that interested me, always the ones that were in regular Cuban pesos, and snooping around in the different tents in search of one of the special discounts that there always is at every fair.

This year I came as both a promoter of the Cuban Book Institute, which is where I work, and also as a journalist. Due to the large volume of news produced at the fair, some online media had contracted me on the side to cover book presentations and other events.

The days were long, without rest on Saturday or Sunday, and in total there were 14 days of uninterrupted work. Each one started at 9:30 and lasted until the end of the daily concert, around 9 at night.

One of the problems I faced was eating. I would become very hungry, and the Institute would bring us only an afternoon snack of bread with ham and a soda, and this was supposed to keep us working through the day. In the end, when we wanted to eat something else, we had to spend all the money we had.

Here I am writing news articles
Here I am writing news articles

I made my debut as a contributor with the press, not having a lot of practice. In the first two days I could only write one news article each day, until afterward I felt like I could do two. I have confidence in developing skill in this new work so that I can earn a little bit of extra money that I need so badly.

For this work they pay me 40 Cuban pesos an article, which would mean if I did it on a regular basis they would give me about 800 pesos monthly, more than double the sad 355 pesos that I receive from the Book Institute. (The regular Cuban peso or Moneda Nacional is used to pay salaries and is worth 5 cents of a US dollar).

If that happened I could leave my current job and dedicate myself to collaborating with news articles not only for the book fair. I would have more freedom of creation, more money and more time.

In the end, this year’s fair has been totally different; I feel that I have made solid steps in the field of journalism, something I had never thought of doing.

The Havana stage of the book fair concluded on February 22, but it has continued on to the other 14 provinces of Cuba, until it closes on Sunday March 8.

2 thoughts on “<em>My Days at the Book Fair</em>

  • Since propaganda is one of the main tools used by imperialism against your country, the cuban government could do nothing better than create as many journalism, etc., cultural jobs and institutions as possible. Especially ones where the journalists can churn out good copy in good english. A cheap bargain at any price. And so there would be the solution to both your — and their — dilemma.

    The Havana Bookfair is certainly a venue and opportunity for lots of that work too.

  • Osmel, given the fact that you didn’t have enough time to eat, and the Book Institute sent over meagre rations, was there any coorelation between your hunger and giving a book a negative review?
    It sounds, however, like this was good practice. Next time you should be able to knock off THREE articles a day! Dose up on expresso. And for a prime example of this “stream-of-consciousness,” hyper-drive writing, if there is a Spanish translation I refer you to Louis Ferdinand Celine’s “Death on the Installment Plan,” and “Journey to the End of Night.” Although his politics were aweful, still, somehow, the dictation he took from his muse was hypnotic. She must have been on amphetamines.
    As for the disparity between CUPS and CUCS, hold on, if we up here keep doling out not millions, not billions, but now trillions of dollars to our failed financial institutions, much more than we could ever hope to repay in future taxes, then it won’t be long before 24 CUPS will no longer equal 1 CUC; rather, they will both be equal, and Northamerican workers will share, via means of inflation, with their Cuban brothers and sisters, in the same pain you now feel through the injustices of your absurd dual curency system!

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