Cuba Book Fair Opens on Feb. 14

Yasmin S. Portales Machado

HAVANA TIMES — The Organizing Committee of the 22nd International Book Fair Cuba (FIL) gave its first press conference with the announcement that the biggest cultural event in Cuba will begin on February 14. Those activities will unfold in Havana up to February 24 and then through March 10 across the rest of the island.

Attending the press conference were the major players of FIL, including Zuleika Romay Guerra, who’s the president of the Cuban Book Institute (ICL); Eduardo Fernandez Collado, the general director of the FIL; Jesus David Curbelo, the Literacy Program coordinator; Edel Morales, ICL’s International Relations director; Pedro Pablo Rodriguez and Daniel Chavarria, writers to whom the fair will be dedicated this year. Also attending was Jorge Gumbe, the head of the delegation for the guest country of honor: Angola.

This year FIL will have 149 exhibitors, of which 81 are from 31 countries from all continents. The largest exhibition area is occupied by Angola, whose three exhibition areas total 498 square meters.

Jorge Gumbe and Daniel Chavarría

Jorge Gumbe said that it is an honor for his country to be the FIL “guest of honor.” The Angolan government sees this as an opportunity to renew friendships, establish new exchanges, pay homage to Cuban internationalists, and to break into the Latin American publishing market.

The Angolan delegation will be made up of 123 people, who will facilitate the presentation of literature, art, music and traditional and contemporary dance from that country.

Cuban publishers will present editions of 18 books selected by the Ministry of Culture of Angola on subjects relating to fiction, poetry and social sciences – many of them contemporary works.

Edel Morales said the five countries most actively participating in FIL this year, after Angola, are Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Ecuador and Venezuela. In total, 394 people from 37 countries have confirmed their presence. They are coming from places as unknown to the Cuban public, as Israel, South Korea and Kazakhstan.

Zuleica Romay Guerra

Jesus David Curbelo reported that two new venues have been added to FIL: the Casa de la Africa and the Casa de Poesia. The sub-venues are spread out across the heart of the capital and aim to relieve the congestion at the San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress overlooking Havana Bay, the main site of FIL activities.

Activities in the sub-venues follow the same thematic criteria. At the Cabaña and in Pavilion Cuba will be simultaneous presentations of varying content. Book sales will also occur in all Havana book stores.

Pedro Pablo Rodriguez and Daniel Chavarria said they felt honored for their designation by FIL, though they are both exhausted from being in the media spotlight for the past month.

Rodríguez, an essayist who specializes on Jose Marti, especially appreciates the opportunity to make his presentations outside Havana. He called attention to the importance of resuscitating the printing industry, noting that if workers and businesses understand that making better books will be profitable, we can work together with them.

Chavarria, the author of mystery novels, expressed his thanks and satisfaction for sharing his FIL designation with Jose Marti (2013 marks the 160th birthday of Cuba’s national hero). He also claims to be the living writer whose fiction books have been stolen the most from the national network of public libraries.

Zuleika Romay Guerra announced that 1,009 titles would be coming onto the market (four and a half million books). The total will reach five million books including those already circulating, though these probably won’t satisfy domestic demand.

Pedro Pablo Rodríguez

The ICL noted at this year’s fair there will be fewer social science texts and more fiction, children’s and popular science – a common shortage here.

Keeping up with the times, part of the FIL will be available on the internet ( and followed on Twitter with # FILCuba2013. Though Romay Guerra admitted that this isn’t just about technology, but about providing information, she’s confident the effort will pay off.

Don’t miss the Angolan cultural conferences, the symposia on Pedro Pablo Rodriguez and Daniel Chavarria and the meeting of historians on Cuba – Africa Relations.  Likewise, editors and translators will discuss the market for the first ebooks for sale online in Cuba.