One of the biggest events is Bogotá´s cultural calendar is ready to take-off, beginning on April 29.
The Bogotá International Book Fair (FILBo) is one of the most significant in Latin America and is Colombia’s most important event to promote reading and the publishing industry.
Every year, books and authors take on a central role, as Bogotá plays host to this cultural fair. This year it is running from April 29 to May 12. Each year a guest country is invited, and Peru is 2014’s guest of honour.
After 433,000 people attended 2013’s edition of the festival, it is thought that this year’s 14-day event will attract more members of the public. it is also expected that there will be a considerable rise in the number of new readers from private and state schools taking part in guided visits, workshops and fun activities (last year around 63,000 people took part).
The event organisers have been given an unexpected new focus this week since the death of Colombia’s most famous author, Gabriel Garcia Marquéz.
Diana Rey, Director of FILBo, said that the book fair will be a place where readers of ‘Gabo’ can pay a personal tribute.
“We want to build a scenic and collective space that will be filled with messages for our Gabo. Furthermore, we want to have an ongoing reading of ‘100 years of solitude’ with authors, academics, journalists and many loving readers of his books,” she commented.
The 26th FILBo represents an important business opportunity for the editorial sector and will play a key role in the development of reading across the country. It is arguably one of the most important cultural gatherings in the region, as 95% of Colombia’s editorial market and around 5,000 professional buyers converge in the 42,000 m2 venue of Corferias.
Peru, this year’s guest, is known worldwide as the country with a thousand-year-old culture. Over the course of the past few decades, the country has experienced sustained economic growth.
“We want this fair to be memorable, not only because we have a marvellous guest country that has made a huge commitment to bring the best of their culture, over 60 guest authors and a unique culinary show, but, we also celebrate a homage to the work and memory of our Nobel Prize winner,” said Ms Rey.
Peru’s presence as guest country aims to show, through the country’s most representative books and authors – led by Mario Vargas Llosa – and other cultural displays, the richness of its legacy and the boom of its present. It is hoped that Peru’s presence at FILBo 2014 will further strengthen the links it currently enjoys with Colombia.
The festival takes on particular importance given that Colombia is a country with a historically low rate of reading. According to a 2013 report by The Regional Centre for the Promotion of Books in Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLALC), 52% of the Colombian population do not read books, placing them third to last out of twelve Ibero-American countries in terms of reading. Chile, with only 20% of the population non-readers, was the country in which most people read.
The report showed that the percentage of the Colombian reading population who read for pleasure was 73%, only beaten by Argentina with 79% and Spain with 84%.
The report pointed out that a frequent reason given by non-readers is lack of interest. The Colombian population answered with 64%, making them the highest ranking in this category.
One of the most representative indicators of a country’s reading development is the average number of books read in a year. In Latin America, Chile and Argentina take the lead with an average of 5.4 and 4.6 books a year per person. Colombia’s average came out at 4.1 per person, decreasing slightly from 4.4 since 2005 when a previous survey was conducted.
The Bogota Post speaks to Claudia Rueda about the promotion of literacy and literature in Colombia.
Bogota-born Claudia Rueda is an internationally published children’s author who writes in both Spanish and English, and whose books have been translated into several other languages.
Claudia, who is looking forward to participating in the Book Fair, also takes part in regular reading activities with schools and libraries throughout the country.
Of the statistics on the numbers of Colombians who read, she says: “It is terrible – very sad – and I think it should be a point of concern for governments, parents and schools.”
However, she remains optimistic about the future, explaining that there are several organisations, both private and public, who are working to promote literature throughout Colombia. She says: “It is happening, but we started too late. There has been a lot of activity in the last 10-15 years, but it will take time to change 200 years of history.”
She believes that teachers here in Bogota have a crucial role to play in introducing (and almost seducing) their students with literature: “The way to get adults to read books, is to get young adults to read, love and be passionate about books. It’s not just about giving one single book to every child, it’s about finding the right book for the right child and selling them the idea: show them how the book is related to their lives, their passions and their hearts.”
Claudia’s books include: Is it Big or is it Little, Nacho and Lolita and My Little Polar Bear and will be for sale at a number of the stands in the Book Fair.
By Javier Mejia Saavedra