As every February, the International Fair of the Book attracted thousands of Cuban to the complex Morro-Cabaña, an ancient military fortress— included in the UNESCO heritage site list, that since 1982 it has been erected as bastion of culture. This time, improved some disappointments with respect to other editions, the book was enthroned again and one of the most important cultural events of Cuba won in quality and reaffirmed its call power.
Obsessed with culture of this country for which at EBM we work shoulder to shoulder with the corresponding Ministry, we went away to backtrack the paving stones of “La Cabaña”, to poke about among the faces of children, to get family images … because this is a familiar event. We went out to ask the makers, to look for extracts of a fair with big tradition and, especially, thought to encourage a need for the country: the habit of reading. Cuba is an island with continent self-esteem because it privileges the contents and it understood long time ago that reading is growing. Cuba is inspired and writes about herself.
This way, for example, Enrique Pérez Díaz, author of numerous books and member of the organizing committee of the fair, agreed to the EBM assault, right opposite to the space devoted to the territorial publishers, and shared some of his impressions:
“We have privileged the presence of the national publishers and that some international ones of big caliber have a great visibility. That’s why almost all the national publishers, especially 7 stamps of the Cuban Institute of the Book, are in the head of the stand. Fortunately, this year many other books have gone out. The polygraphy, in spite of the difficulties, has done a outstanding effort to accomplish the publishing plan. We did not arrived to the beginning of the Fair with the whole production finished; it has been incorporated and we have moved forward in this.
It has been a question of getting a more cultured Fair in many senses, without stopping being popular. For example, there were eliminated the big concerts that created agglomerations and are very massive and had nothing to do with a fair of the book; we replace it with a club of trova and poetry. A group of poet has been in ‘’Parque de los laureles’’ in the morning, commanded by Basilia Papastamatíu, and in the evening a group of troubadours commanded by Marta Campos.
The cultural projects have been evaluated, even of private exhibitors who have come to the Fair with proposals of games, puzzles, interactive games and videos inspired by literary works and that gives him another cultural tone to the fair.
The fair has a very wide programming that has been developed so much here as well as in Vedado’s HQ that also have been promoted and has also contributed to show a general panorama about the culture in Cuba, above all in the field of edition and literature.
I believe that it is a Fair much more visualized in what we want to emphasize from it, pointed Enrique.
For the poetess and authoress for children Teresa Melo, from Caguayo Foundation, “one of the most important values of the Fair is not only summoning the family, but also encouraging the habit of reading”.
Proud, commented about its community project in Santiago de Cuba and about the book that brought on pages of the Valencian publishing house Selvi.
“I have a project in my community, in Santiago, which is called a Cultural House, basically a library of community lending. My urban neighbourhood is new, it was built after hurricane Sandy and it does not have cultural institutions yet. I understood the need of having an institution of that kind, although it is in my house, with my own time and with my books and those of my daughter. Although we could not form everybody in the taste for the reading, I think that while we go one by one we can do a big multitude.
Assuming the book as a values container, the part that we try to take care more with children, when we create, it is the habit of reading in early ages; this way, they will hardly be apart from the reading when they will be adults. Caguayo foundation, where I am employed, has in the fair a series of books, but it is also employed at the community and at wider level for the habit of reading.”
Precisely, Iris Gorostola, the executive publisher of Selvi Ediciones, commented about the innovations of this 2017 and about the essences of a foreign publishing house conceived for the Cuban family.
“We have a few didactic collections: ‘’learn and color’’, ‘’play and learn’’, calligraphy … another part is of books of narrative, poetry or interactive that they can have ‘’cuquitas’’, stickers … but devoted to the children. It also promotes Cuban authors, from Miguel Barnet, who gave us its collection of ‘’akeké’’ and the ‘’Jutía’’ — which is a book from 1967 and we have published by parts with new designs —to Elaine Vilar, young authoress. We work a lot with Brother Saíz Association”.
For his part, Muiño Acosta, sales manager of the publishing Union, shows pride on having looked around him and to found himself in a stand with over 90 titles, all of Cuban authors.
“The event is very important. Unión Editions publishes books of a high level and we are present in an event as popular as this. Because it is introducing the child, the young man, in the reading: although sometimes you come across a young that asks you about such authors …! What it demonstrates ignorance and they do not know about the real ones. But little by little we are introducing their interest in the reading. I like very much when young people enters interested and asking …
“Here there is narrative, poetry and when you look around and find so much, you say to yourself: Well, it seems that we are doing an interesting job”.
The International Fair of the Book of Havana has that which gets pride out of you, although those who are at the head of the event look for more and follow the results of the daily surveys.
One of the stands with big movement was that of ‘’Arte chef’’. There, dressed with their suits, the members of the Cuban culinary Federation not only propose the books that they bring, but also they share with the possible readers, recipes and secrets of the Cuban culinary. Isn’t it said that the books also nourish …?
“For this publishing house the important thing it is the rescue of the Cuban culinary. We have for example a recipe of the ‘’sopita de miel’’ (littler honey soup), which is a French toast that does not have milk, which is done with cane treacle and sugar-cane juice and is not fried; therefore it is healthier, nevertheless it is not known. There is very much exchange between those who come here and us, got sure the chef Carlos Silvio Otero.
Art chef is another publishing house that collaborates with Selvi Ediciones. Several title have been nominated this year to the awards Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, the Oscars of the cookbooks.
After our trip by the International Fair of the Book and listening to similar opinions it is confirmed that the event, with its height and its noble aspiration to contribute at the intellectual level of educated people, has deep roots. As Enrique Pérez Díaz says: the maximum aspiration is that “every reader finds its book and every book its possible reader”. This way the inseparable couples of this world meet.
Havana’s nights are done. La Cabaña, la Casa de las Américas, el Pabellón Cuba, la Casa del Alba and the HQ of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba and José Martí Society illuminated with letters the life in the capital. Only in ten days, more than 415 000 readers covered the old fortress. Approximately 530 foreign representatives — included 180 writers; 30 of them from Canada, the guess country —in 46 countries shared with the Cubans this privileged window to the sea and to the book. And in approximately 900 presentations about 301 500 copies were sold.
Devoted to the politician and intellectual revolutionary Armando Hart Dávalos, the fair paid homage to the Cuban leader Fidel Castro, whose stamp was appreciated in 24 titles about him.
Despite the inexorable economic tensions, again Cuba gave to the world and to itself a sign of which are its priorities: more than 700 new titles from 70 territorial and national publishing houses made clear how much the reading inspires.
Now The Fair of the Book 2017 travels to provinces, covers the Island, where it will make small the numbers and emotions recorded in Havana. On April 16, in Santiago de Cuba, it will close for one year the big “book” of this edition. As far as this epilogue comes, it is easy to imagine faces as those of the capital … an affectionate and well written text always harvests smiles.