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The Feria Internacional del Libro

The Feria Internacional del Libro

The 24th Havana International Book Fair 2015 will be held from February 12 to 22, under the slogan “To read is to grow”. This year, the Republic of India will be the Guest Country of Honor and the fair will be dedicated to authors Olga Portuondo Zúñiga, National Social Sciences and Humanities Award 2010, and Leonardo Acosta, National Literature Award 2006.

Aside from the traditional venues at the Fortress of San Carlos de La Cabaña and El Castillo de los Tres Reyes Del Morro, this new edition will also have several sub-venues in different parts of the capital, including Pabellón Cuba, Casa Del Alba Cultural and Centro Dulce Maria Loynaz, where literary, artistic and academic events have been scheduled.

The 2015 edition will be an ideal occasion for professionals related to the world of publishing and specialists from the book industry to meet and exchange views.

Every year, the professional, academic and literary programs include symposiums, tributes, panel discussions, lectures, readings, book launchings and awards aimed at fostering fruitful exchanges between writers, thinkers, cultural promoters, artists and the audience. The artistic program of last year’s fair featured more than 18 musical performances, ten art exhibitions, and theatrical productions by more than a dozen countries.

Each edition of the Havana International Book Fair provides new reasons as to why it has become the most significant event in the Cuban publishing movement since its inception in 1982, and also the most unifying cultural event in the country. Besides offering a space for purchasing books and exchanging views with the authors, the Fair has become a place for exhibiting the dynamism and different facets of the cultural life of Cuba. 

Memoirs from the 2014 Book Fair

The 2014 23rd Book fair was dedicated to National Award winners Nersys Felipe in Literature and Rolando Rodríguez in Social Sciences. Ecuador was guest of honor.  Special homage was also paid to one of the greatest Spanish-language authors of the nineteenth century, the Cuban poet, playwright and narrator Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda on the 200th anniversary of her birth.
What began as a modest book fair founded by the famous Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier, eventually became the most important literary event on the island. Every year tens of thousands of people pack the San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress in Havana, attracted by book launchings of all genres and topics from Cuban and foreign publishing houses, along with panel discussions, poetry readings, concerts, children’s events, and a crafts fair. After Havana, the fair travels to other Cuban cities.

The first known book fair in Cuba was held in May 1937 in the areas adjacent to the esplanade of La Punta Fortress, the Malecón and the Paseo del Prado. Despite government collaboration, it barely had an impact on the country’s cultural life, even in Havana.  The idea was taken up again in the 1950s, this time designed to be held along the Paseo del Prado and Parque Central, but this effort also left no mark.

In March 1959, only three months after the revolutionary triumph, three important institutions were created: the National Printers of Cuba, the Cuban School of Graphic Arts and the School of Typography, whose purpose was to produce books that would be available and affordable for everyone. With the Literacy Campaign in 1961, a wide reading public was born, one who began to need books as an essential part of their existence.

With the creation of the National Publishers of Cuba and the strengthening of different cultural institutions that helped Cuban authors to get published, the conditions for conducting book fairs in Cuba would change dramatically. By the mid 1960s, there was already a national industry, a population of avid readers and new writers who contributed to the publication of varied topics and genres.

For three consecutive years in the 60s, Parque Central was the venue of what was then called the Cuban Book Festival, but this never really took off. With the creation of the Ministry of Culture in 1976, the Cuban Book Institute considered the possibility of resuming the organization of book fairs and made some launchings and sales in the small plaza between the Asturian Center and the Manzana de Gómez, with a high turnout due largely to the auction of books and literary competitions.

The 1st Havana International Book Fair took place in 1982 in the exhibition halls of the Fine Arts Museum and was dedicated to Cuban patriot and writer José Martí, Cuban poet Nicolas Guillén and Bulgarian leader Georgi Dimitrov, who had been a printer by trade. The modest representation of publishers and guests included publishers and writers from Latin America.

Since then, the event has expanded in different ways. From the simple exhibition and sale of books of the early years, the fair now revolves around a central theme and a guest country. Activities include prizes to Cuban authors; panels, readings and lectures by outstanding Cuban and international writers; art exhibitions and concerts; launchings and book signing; and, of course, the sale of books. As of 2002, the fair was extended to 30 other cities throughout Cuba from early February to mid March making it the largest cultural event held in Cuba.

The location in La Cabaña Fortress enables the fair to attract diverse audiences. There are those attracted by the launching of new works and also those who go there simply to enjoy family life ensured by the spectacular view of the city, restaurants and fast food outlets, children’s playground within the deep dry moat and concerts in the evenings, attended mainly by a young festive crowd.

The last fair in 2014 saw over 2,000 titles on sale with round 260 writers and intellectuals, and 140 editors, 80 Cuban and 60 international, from 41 countries actively involved. A massive 2.5 million books were published. Visitors to the fair numbered 387,000 only in Havana. However impressive, these numbers miss the spirit and heart of this event in La Cabaña Fortress. Take a look.

For more information see

Febraury 2015 This article formed part of the February 2015 issue of What’s On Havana The definitive monthly travel & culture guide to Havana Download our current issue of What’s On Havana, your definitive travel, culture and entertainment guide for all things happening in Havana, Cuba’s bustling and enigmatic capital city. We include features from around Cuba written by the best international travel writers covering Cuba. Our monthly online digital magazine is also available in Spanish and French.

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