Since Cuba enjoys the highest literacy rate (99.8 per cent) in the Caribbean it should come as no surprise that one of its most cherished cultural events of the year is the annual Havana Book Fair (Feria Internacional del Libro de La Habana), which this year will be held from February 9-19.
First launched in 1982, it is indeed a fair complete with musical performances, book readings, activities for the kids, and lectures that is held on the walled and hallowed grounds of the Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana, an18h century fort just east of downtown Havana.
Each year a different country along with its literary and cultural contributions is honoured. This year that country is Canada (currently celebrating 150 years of Confederation) with such revered Canadian authors as Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson participating in official ceremonies and panel discussions.
Other Canadian authors expected to attend include Kingston, Ontario’s Karen Dubinsky (Cuba Beyond the Beach) and Montreal photographer Heidi Hollinger (300 Reasons to Love Havana-to be released Fall, 2017).
Related events will include musical performances by The Jerry Cans (a Canadian musical group from Iquluit, Nunavut) as well as a photo exhibit entitled “Images from Canada-Cuba Cooperation Over the Years” to be held in Canadian Pavilion.
In addition, there will be a Quebec Day (Sunday, Feb. 12)
where the guest of honour will be the Minister of International Relations of Quebec, Mme. Christine St-Pierre along with her Cuban counterpart (to be announced).
The Havana Book Fair has been known to attract upwards tof a million visitors per year so it does become a tremendous mass of hungry minds seeking nourishment. Therefore, if you are someone who does not like crowds nor waiting in lines, stay away! However, for those who can brave the throngs they will be rewarded with both local and international literature offerings from over 100 different publishing houses who set up stalls throughout the fort’s grounds. Prices for the books are such that Cubans can afford to snap up some bargains with many struggling under the armfuls of their purchases. A party atmosphere prevails with laughter and shrieks of joy bouncing of the 18th century stone.
Following the 10 days in Havana the book fair then travels throughout the country stopping in all of the major cities and finishing up in Santiago de Cuba. This gives most Cubans the opportunity to stock up their libraries for another year.
Feria Internacional del Libro de La Habana
Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana
A.J. Twist will be at the Havana Book Fair trying to track down Cuban mystery author Leonardo Padura to chat about his famous character Detective Mario Conde and his exploits in his upcoming book , Heretics (to be released in March, 2017).