The 14th edition of the Guatemala International Book Fair (FILGua) was held in Guatemala City from July 13 to 23. The consumer fair had more than 50,000 people in attendance, a 36% increase from the previous year, and close to 100 exhibitors and 90 authors from 15 countries. About 60% of Guatemala’s population of about 16 million speaks Spanish, with nearly all the rest speaking Amerindian languages (there are 23 officially recognized in Guatemala). Books available at the fair were mostly in Spanish, but there were a number of books in Kaqchikel, one of the Mayan languages taught in Guatemala’s public schools.
Fair director Raúl Figueroa said FILGua has had a positive impact in the Guatemala City region: “Not only does the fair invite schools to bring the children and participate but we also went out to 12 schools in the surrounding areas to bring authors to present. Some of the rural communities hold writing contests among the students, and the winners get to attend the fair.” The fair also had a day of workshops for the more than 100 librarians who attended.
The opening speech was delivered by Sergio Ramírez, an award-winning author and the former vice president of Nicaragua. Internationally renowned authors such as Mayra Santos-Febres from Puerto Rico, Carlos Winter Melo from Panama, Fran Antmann from the U.S., and Dorella Barahona from Costa Rica participated in this year’s fair. The extensive roster of Guatemalan authors included internationally acclaimed author and translator Javier Mosquera; journalist, human rights activist, and novelist Anabella Giracca; and artist, poet, and children’s book author Julio Serrano, who just published a series of books based on Mayan folklore.
Librarians and booksellers in the U.S. have mentioned an unmet demand for books from Central America—unsurprising given that the number of immigrants to the U.S. from Central America increased tenfold between 1980 and 2015. But there were few Americans in attendance at the fair. Of the publishers that participated in FILGua, the majority already work with companies to distribute their books in the U.S. but realize they need to make a greater effort in order to better reach the U.S. market.
Librarians and booksellers in the U.S. have mentioned an unmet need in the U.S. for books from Central America.