After a four-year absence, LéaLA returns to Los Angeles in October. The free three-day literary festival will host 40 leading Latin-American writers and artists who will present their work in literature, poetry, journalism, cinema, and it will also feature a series of cultural activities for children. Organized by the University of Guadalajara USA Foundation and backed by the Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL), LéaLA, which is aimed at Spanish speakers, will be held Friday–Sunday, October 4–6, at the Plaza de la Cultura y las Artes in Downtown L.A.
With the border between the U.S. and Mexico having a significant impact on the life of many in Southern California, the theme for this year’s festival is “the border and its metaphors.” Marisol Schulz, director of LéaLA and FIL, says this year’s LéaLA “is an open forum, which we hope will generate an exchange of ideas and reflection, and which will also have spaces for attendees to write, in their words, what the border means to them.”
In addition to the border between the U.S. and Mexico, the festival will look to explore the different types of borders people create. The opening session will be held by journalist Lydia Cacho and is titled “Borders and Exiles: The Power of the People.” Cacho has been described by Amnesty International as “perhaps Mexico’s most famous investigative journalist and women’s rights advocate.”
LéaLA kicks off Friday with a program primarily focused on children’s literature and cultural activities aimed at students from Los Angeles public schools. “We want to use literature and cultural activities as a way for children to express their feelings about the border and how this might be impacting them and their families,” Schulz explains.
On Saturday and Sunday, there will be a series of literary presentations by prominent authors from Latin America and the U.S., including Sergio Aragonés, Ana Clavel, Bernardo “Bef” Fernández, Jorge F. Hernández, Francisco Hinojosa, Myriam Moscona, Margarita de Orellana, Diego Enrique Osorno, and Magali Tercero. In addition, there will be a musical show—Cada quien su Frida, with actress Ofelia Medina—and a documentary about the border by Diego Enrique Osorno.
The festival will also include 15 poetry readings, a discussion of graphic novels as literature, and presentations on literature as a border and our bodies as borders. In addition, the fair will host a discussion between former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Marcela Celorio, council general of Mexico in Los Angeles, on how the U.S.–Mexico border is viewed from both sides. A schedule of events and author presentations can be found at lea-la.com.
LéaLA, one of the most ambitious book fairs in Spanish in the U.S., had four successful editions, in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015, at the Los Angeles Convention Center, with more than 50,000 attending and 230 publishers participating. The plan for the return of LéaLA in 2017 collapsed due to financial challenges caused by the declining value of the Mexican peso relative to the dollar, which increased costs for the foundation and the publishers from Mexico that made up the bulk of exhibitors.
Under a less ambitious plan, the fair returns this year in a more intimate setting as a literary festival that will only include works of adult fiction, while the children’s area will continue to have activities around fiction and nonfiction books. The festival will not host an exhibit area for publishers, but books will be on sale at a stand operated by the Carlos Fuentes Book Store, which is owned by the University of Guadalajara.
Schulz says it is time for LéaLA to return to Los Angeles. “We are going to celebrate Spanish as a way of reclaiming our culture. People should not feel sorry to speak it but quite the opposite: they should be proud of a language spoken by more than 500 million people in the world. We have centuries of history, of tradition, and we should be proud of that culture that goes beyond what some voices detract or minimize. ”