Photo feature by Daisy Valera
HAVANA TIMES — Yesterday morning, Cuba’s 2013 International Book Fair opened its doors to the public.
Although this is the twenty-second such event held here since 1959, one can argue that book fairs are a tradition in Havana. Writer Jose Lezama Lima described them in the pages of the Diario de la Marina newspaper as far back as December 1949.
This is perhaps one of the reasons that the historic La Cabaña fortress, the principal site of the book fair, has been full of visitors despite a steady drizzle and gray skies.
This year the fair is dedicated to two individuals: Pedro Pablo Rodriguez, who is a scholar of Jose Marti’s work; and Daniel Chavarria – the winner of the 2011 National Literature Prize and author of popular novels such as Joy and Adios Muchachos.
With Angola as the guest nation of honor, the site is full of Angolan art exhibitions, books by writers from that country (translated and edited by Cuban publishing houses), panel discussions on the history of Angola and pavilions that throb to the beat of “kuduro” (an African musical style) performed by Cabo Snoop, a popular musician out of Luanda.
Alongside the pavilions of other Cuban publishing houses, we also found the flags of countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, Spain, Peru and even South Korea.
Among the most striking sites, we found stands featuring literature from Japan, Iran and the Argentinean National Library, which is committed to providing free books at the close of the event.
Some of the places most visited by the public include the “Miniature Books” section and “Cuban Humor” tent.
There are other truly atypical stands such as the one sponsored by the Esperanto Association and the area where flags and clothing from Spanish Soccer League clubs are being sold.
One can find multiple selections and prices in both national currency and hard currency CUCs, so the foreigners in attendance (mainly Chinese and Latin Americans) are filling up entire bags with books and many Cubans aren’t going empty-handed either.
Other people are taking advantage of the event as only a meeting place or a chance for picnics in the green spaces around the fortress.
In conclusion, the International Book Fair — with presentations of more than a dozen books and the holding of about the same number of round tables and lectures each day — is a place that allows tens of thousands of Havanans to get closer to dissimilar cultures from around the world.
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