The Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara (FIL, or Guadalajara International Book Fair), the largest and most important book fair for the Spanish-language book world, is launching a States-side fair this spring, LéaLA. The Spanish-language book fair will take place at the Los Angeles Convention Center from April 29–May 1 and will be free to the general public.

“[LéaLA] is an offshoot of the Guadalajara Book Fair,” said David Unger, FIL’s U.S. representative. “It is focused primarily on the general public, and not on [professional] book buyers.” The idea for a Los Angeles Spanish-language fair surged after the city served as FIL’s guest of honor in 2009.

So far, 100 publishers and more than 30 writers have confirmed their participation, including many renowned authors such as Mexico’s Elena Poniatowska, Bolivia’s Edmundo Paz Soldán, Nicaragua’s Gioconda Belli, and Colombia’s Laura Restrepo, as well as children’s authors. “We are planning book presentations, conferences, lectures, signings,” said Marisol Schulz, fair director, as well as a cultural program with programs geared towards kids and shows at the Nokia Theater, which include concerts by Mexican regional singer Lupillo Rivera, popular rock bands Molotov and Maldita Vecindad, and rancheras superstar and actor Pedro Fernández.

“This might be more like a Latin American counterpart to the L.A. Book Festival, except it’ll focus on the Spanish-language books and outreach to Latino communities,” said Unger.

FIL is organized by Mexico’s Universidad de Guadalajara, which has had a branch in Los Angeles for about five years. FIL’s president, Raúl Padilla, who has a good relationship with L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, “has wanted to highlight the two million or so Latinos that live in the L.A. area and to let them know about the university,” said Unger, “and to fill a huge vacuum” in terms of Spanish-language books.

Every year, book professionals from all corners travel to Guadalajara to attend FIL, including many U.S. librarians who sometimes spend the bulk of their collection development budget there. In fact, since many U.S. librarians were not able to attend FIL last year due to library budget cuts (attendance dropped to 128 in 2010 from an annual average of 180), LéaLA is a good alternative. “I know a number of librarians who are planning to go [to LéaLA] to look at books, if not buy books,” said Unger.

For more information, visit