The 25th annual Havana Book Fair, held February 11-21 at the San Carlos de La Cabana Fortress, opened with a new feature this year: The American Books Exposition. A display of books published by nearly 40 American houses, the collection marked the first time U.S. publishers have exhibited at the show.

Although individual American publishers and authors have attended the fair, the ABE--which is jointly organized by Jon Malinowski and Janet Fritsch of Combined Book Exhibit, as well as Publishers Weekly--is the first organized group of American publishers to have an event space at the event. For Malinowski, American involvement in the book show is "historic," and marks the beginning of a more open flow of business between the U.S. publishing industry and the Cuban one.

Among the 40 publishers included in ABE's stand in Havana are: Fulcrum Publishing, HarperCollins Espanol, MIT Press, NBM Publishing, Rosen Publishing, and Triumph Books. Overall, ABE is displaying 600 titles at the fair.

The fair, which opened on Tuesday, was packed with Latin American dignitaries and Cuban government officials. Among those attending were the Vice President of Uruguay and Zuleica Romay Gerra president of The Cuban Book Institute part of the Cuban Ministry of Culture, (the ministry organizes the show).

Held at a sprawling 16th-century fort that dates back to the beginnings of Cuba, the fair is virtually a city in and of itself; walking around the grounds allows visitors to take in a mix of Cuban history, as well as the ability to glimpse the country's future. With relations between the U.S. and Cuba having just opened up, attending the show--and seeing the ABE's presence--reminds one that Cuba is entering a new phase politically, not to mention a new era in publishing.

For Malinowski, the trip marks the beginning of a new era and, more specifically, more publisher-driven trips to Cuba. "I'm optimistic about future cooperation with the Havana Book Fair and The Cuban Ministry of Culture."