¡Viva Literature!

Is Mexico a narco state or a book lover’s paradise? It depends on what you read.

| May-June 2009

  • Mexico Literature Book Fair

    image by Stephanie Maze / CORBIS

  • Mexico Literature Book Fair

A Mexican saying holds that como Mexico no hay dos—there is only one Mexico. American media these days interpret that notion with a vengeance.

Story after story depicts a country overrun by out-of-control drug wars and murder, where corrupt police officers trip over beheaded victims more often than they nab perpetrators.

And then, somewhere below the radar, is Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara, the foremost book fair in the Spanish-speaking world. Last fall it drew an astonishing 600,000 visitors over nine days, more than 100,000 of them children and most of them buying books. Founded two decades ago, FIL (its Spanish acronym) annually draws to Guadalajara approximately 1,600 publishers and 15,000 book professionals from 40 countries, among them more than 500 authors.

Over the years, a fabulous parade of internationally acclaimed writers from inside and outside the Spanish-speaking world—Margaret Atwood, William Golding, Martin Amis, André Brink, Salman Rushdie, Toni Morrison—have come. Multiple prizes, among them the Juan Rulfo (worth $150,000), are bestowed. Art exhibits and music performances complement the literary doings but never overwhelm them. FIL’s aim, according to Raúl Padilla López, its chairman, is “to broaden the horizons of the book in Spanish,” to “aid in its continuing to be modern society’s primary cultural and educational vehicle.”

We gabachos north of the border might learn something from the event.

Every year, like a number of international book fairs, FIL displays its cosmopolitan side, declaring some nation a “guest of honor” and working with that country’s officials, publishers, and universities to present scores of its writers and intellectuals through readings, panels, and debates. Last year Italy basked in the spotlight.

4/22/2009 2:06:23 PM

Indeed the Maya and Aztecs did have written languages long predating the arrival of the Spaniards as did other Mexican groups before the Spaniards showed up! I wouldn't be able to keep this short if I started in on the topic. However, readers might want to check the following links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aztec_writing http://www.famsi.org/mayawriting/index.html You've a long way to go to understanding Mexico.