Review by Nuria Marquez (Mexico/USA)
Published in The Ofi Press issue 42
The sixth annual Independent Book Fair is an ongoing month-long event hosted by the editorial house El Fondo de Cultura Economica. From May 7th to June 7th, El Fondo hosted a different event each night at their location in La Condesa. Not only is this event a celebration of Hispanic literature and writing, it puts the spotlight on emerging Mexican writers and poets.
I first encountered the book fair on my second day in Mexico City. Living only a few blocks away from El Fondo, I walked thinking of any authors or books I was in need of. As I walked around the space, its expansive white and black ceilings above me, I picked up Cortázar, and Juan Rulfo. I was armed with the classics, I thought. And then I saw the sign, “VI Feria del Libro Independiente” and behind it was a world of authors and books I hadn’t ever encountered.
Needless to say, I felt completely out of touch and overwhelmed by how many choices I had at my fingertips. There was “The Old God and the Rabbit” by Guillermo Bernal of Resistencia Editorial who described the book as a “Mayan comic book,” “Rumoroso Delta” by Justine Hernandez and “Y Lo Jugado Quien Me Lo Quita?” by Ramon Abarca collections of love poems and soccer poems from De Otro Tipo Editorial and anything else you could imagine. Each published by one of 80 independent Mexican publishers present at the fair.
After looking through a few of these books and trying to find my place among the unknown, I found what seemed to be the smartest purchase at the time: an anthology of the best new voices in Mexican fiction from Almadía Editorial in Oaxaca.
And then I left.
But as I was walking home, I thought about how amazing it was for El Fondo, which is the most important publishing house in Mexico to provide this type of outlet for publishing houses throughout the country to sell their books. It’s not every day you get to see the big man supporting the underdog.
As it turns it out, the fair wasn’t just an opportunity to purchase new works, but for two to three hours each day, you got to sit and listen in on these very authors and publishers discuss the work and the language and the beauty that is Hispanic literature.
The two part tribute of the late poet Max Rojas was one of the standout panels of the fair. In it, friends and colleagues of Max Rojas discussed his expansive work of poetry and essays, most notably his series of poem anthologies “Cuerpos I-IV” published by Malpaìs Editorial. On the second night of the tribute, the panelists read a few of his poems and discussed what Rojas meant to the genre as well as to young writers everywhere.
One panelist and devoted friend of Rojas said, “We need to recover the written word…it’s not possible that a country with such a rich poetic history is losing writers like this.” While of course he was speaking of the great Rojas, who passed away earlier this year, the same quote can apply to any Latin American writer falling through the cracks of such an immense literary world.
The many talks, panels and presentations covered almost every genre; poetry, comics, picture books, plays and I’m sorry to say I only barely scratched the surface of the whole event. But with every panel, I found myself nodding and feeling inspired in a different way every night. Especially during the panel for archeologist Guillermo Bernal where he spoke about the role of academia in literature. He discussed how sometimes stuffy academic journals aren’t the best medium for archeological discoveries, but rather a simple comic book explaining the complexities of the Mayan language through a simple story of a rabbit.
For anyone with a love for literature, writing, or art even, this annual event is a great way to immerse yourself in this huge and rather unknown of independent publishing.
The book fair happens every year beginning around May. To find more information on this event and others happening at El Fondo, you can check out their website here.