“To read is to grow.” That is the slogan of Cuba's International Book Fair, which becomes the center of attention for all Cuban readers every year. And in the spirit of that slogan, a quotation from Cuban national hero José Martí, the 22nd edition of the fair will take place February 14-24, 2013 in Havana, and until March 10 in the rest of the country.
Generally considered as the most important yearly event in Cuba's cultural panorama, the 2013 book fair will honor two renowned intellectuals: Cuban-Uruguayan writer Daniel Chavarría, winner of the 2010 National Literature Award, and Cuban historian Pedro Pablo Rodríguez, winner of the 2009 National Social Sciences Award.
The fair also will be dedicated to Angolan literature. The literary production of that multi-ethnic southwest African country is practically unknown in Cuba, and the fair will be a good opportunity for Cubans to learn more about Angola's rich cultural heritage, which dates back to the kingdoms before the inrush of Europeans into Africa, said Zuleica Romay, president of the Cuban Book Institute, when she officially announced Angola as the guest of honor country for the 2013 fair.
At the announcement, Angolan Culture Minister Rosa Cruz da Silva expressed her “great satisfaction at that honor” and she predicted that the event would serve to “rebuild and recover” elements of “common history” from both nations.
According to sources at the Cuban Book Institute, Cuba will host the largest exhibit of Angolan literature ever organized in Latin America, comprising various anthologies of poetry and fiction and a large number of books by the country's bestknown authors.
The 2012 book fair, which was dedicated to the culture of the people of the Greater Caribbean and Cuban writers Ambrosio Fornet and Zoila Lapique, brought together visitors from 41 countries for 10 days at the fair's main venue, the San Carlos de la Cabaña fortress in Havana.
Hundreds of stands and almost 800 literary, professional, academic and artistic activities attracted more than two million people all over the island, drawn by their interest in learning about the latest developments in Cuban literature and obtaining classical and contemporary works from other countries.
While an initial book fair was organized in Cuba in 1937 by Cuban historians Emilio Roig de Leuchsering and José Luciano Franco, the first Havana International Book Fair was held in 1982. At that event, hosted by the Museo de Bellas Artes, Cuba's national fine arts museum, Bulgarian writer Georgi Dimitrov, José Martí and Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén were honored. Subsequently, the book fairs were held biannually, and were limited to the Cuban capital, until the year 2000.
At the opening of the 21st century, the fair has continued and grown, spreading to all of Cuba and faithfully following through on its purpose of promoting literature as a phenomenon for the masses, for all of society. At the same time, it has continued to develop as an appealing venue for exchange between authors, publishers, librarians and distributors.
Throughout its three decades of history, Cuba's most important literary event has paid tribute to Cuban writers such as Cintio Vitier, Fina García Marruz, Roberto Fernández Retamar, Miguel Barnet, Nancy Morejón, Antón Arrufat, Jesús Orta Ruiz, Reynaldo González, César López, Pablo Armando Fernández, Abelardo Estorino and Fernando Martínez Heredia.
Guests of honor have included delegations from Mexico, Italy, Spain, France, the Andean Community of Nations (Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru), Germany, Brazil, Galicia (Spain), Chile and Russia.