A World of Books

Guadalajara, Mexico has the largest book festival in the Western Hemisphere, and the second largest in the world. I've often heard the statement that Mexicans don't read. This is the assumed reason why no chain bookstores in the US will build stores in the heart of the barrio. A developer friend of mine tried to bring a Barnes & Noble into the Northeast San Fernando Valley, the community with more Mexicans and other Latinos than any other after East LA. They said they wouldn't touch this area with a ten-foot pole. The vast LA Eastside, with millions of potential readers, only has a Borders Bookstore in the outskirts of the main barrio, in Pico Rivera. I have a short story collection, "The Republic of East LA," published by HarperCollins/Rayo Books, which cannot be found in East LA. But the International Book Fair in Guadalajara is proof that books are still vital, as well as for Mexicans. That the word in all its myriad forms are extremely significant. I've been to many book festivals over the years--various Book Expos, and in cities like LA, New York, Chicago, San Antonio, Miami, and others. I've read and held court in book fairs in Mexico City and Venezuela. The Guadalajara book fair is the largest by far. The hit of this particular book fair, however, are the lowrider cars and bikes exhibit that Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural organized, with funds from the LA City Department of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts (co-ordinated for Tia Chucha's by Chicano Studies professor, Denise Sandoval). Yesterday, LA's Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke and inaugurated the LA Pavilion--LA City is this year's honored quest. The Pavilion holds one of the lowrider cars and two bikes (the other lowrider car is at the main entrance to the Expo). It also holds hundreds of LA-based nonprofit presses, including our very own, Tia Chucha Press. Trini is here to help move these and other books--she's good at this having done this for eight years at Tia Chucha's bookstore. I have four panels to do during the coming week, my first one is the presentation of the Luvina magazine, which features LA writers in Spanish and English. I'll talk about the experience of being an LA writer, of course from a Chicano perspective. This morning I had breakfast with Salvador Acosta Romero, who has organized a Chicano Encuentro (encounter) at the book fair--these are set for December 1 and 2. With Trini and I was Salvador's wife as well as the LA theater director/movie director Jose Luis Valenzuela. We're enjoying ourselves immensely. c/s/

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