F&G Editores, the Guatemala-based press, has won the 2021 Association of American Publishers International Freedom to Publish | Jeri Laber Award. The annual prize recognizes a publisher outside the United States that “has demonstrated courage and fortitude in defending freedom of expression.”
The house was founded in 1993 by Raúl Figueroa Sarti, who still runs it, and who has been the target of both the Guatemalan government and other actors in the country. Figueroa Sarti, has, the AAP said, “received numerous personal threats over the years,” including a one-year prison sentence over “false charges as part of a campaign designed to paralyze his publishing operation.” (The sentence was later revoked.)
“Raúl Figueroa Sarti and his colleagues at F&G Editores have exercised their freedom to publish not only through periods of active peril but also through the lulls that precede danger’s inevitable return,” said Terry Adams, digital and paperback publisher at Little, Brown and chair of the AAP Freedom to Publish Committee. “They have endured the cycle of terror and intimidation not for weeks, or years, but decades. It is an honor to recognize their fine work as publishers, as well as their tenacity and bravery, which command the respect of all who value freedom.”
In 1997, F&G published an edition of the Guatemalan criminal procedure code that immediately became one of the bestselling books in the country; the volume marked the first time that court decisions and law changes had ever been published in the country. F&G has published more than 180 titles, including the works of Guatemala’s Miguel Ángel Asturias, the 1967 Nobel Prize for Literature laureate.
The AAP noted F&G's nonfiction publishing program in particular as having put Figueroa Sarti in the crosshairs, citing such books as Lineage and Racism in Guatemala, which examines racism against the Mayan peoples; State Crime: The Parlacen Case, which described the involvement of state security forces in the murder of Salvadoran deputies in Guatemalan territory; and more. F&G Editores has 12 books slated for this year—seven works of literature and five titles dealing with social and political issues.
“I am very grateful to the Association of American Publishers for giving me the Freedom to Publish Award,” Figueroa Sarti said upon accepting the award. “Beyond an acknowledgment of my publishing work in Guatemala, it seems very relevant that attention is paid internationally to the risks that freedom of expression and publication are experiencing today, both from central government and from the most powerful economic groups of Guatemala that fear their privileges are at risk.”