Editorial by Marisol Schulz Manaut, LéaLA Fair Director
LOS ANGELES: Mexico is living a wave of violence like never seen before and it affects everyone, particularly the civilian population and it is having a huge impact on how Mexicans are viewed outside the country. I am often asked how I can visit Mexico City. Many think that in order to walk around I must wear a bulletproof vest or some kind of armored protection. Nothing is further from the truth. The number of deaths caused by the “war” on drugs cannot be denied, but we must give all things just measure. It is as safe to move around in Mexico, as it is in some Los Angeles neighborhoods. Although there is the possibility of getting caught in crossfire, in general I must point out that the violence is localized, that it is brutally concentrated in towns around where drug dealers clash with the military. The violence, the scandalous killing of thousands of people, fill the headlines because of the brutality of these crimes — crimes which are intended to frighten and intimidate.
However, and this is my point, Mexico is much more than bullets, blood and violence. Mexicans who live on this side of the Rio Bravo, or as it is called in the U.S. the Rio Grande, know that our cultural ancestry is made up of a mosaic of languages and races, places honored as world heritage sites by UNESCO, and a gastronomy that is among the richest and most varied anywhere in the world. We are color, we are letters, and we are people who live work and create and whose literature and culture have given the world invaluable contributions.
Because of all these factors, and with the idea of fostering reading and celebrating the culture of our communities we want to present to you the first grand book fair in Spanish in Los Angeles, LéaLA, a cultural project with a long term mission, an initiative of the University of Guadalajara Foundation in the U.S. and the International Book Fair of Guadalajara.
This cultural venture will be celebrated on April 29, 30 and May 1 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, Concourse Hall, and it is designed to not only promote culture and reading, but also be a space where we can reflect on the distribution of books in Spanish and the cultural and educational development of millions of Spanish-language speakers in the U.S. and emphasize the importance of bilingualism.
It is a paradox that being able to speak two languages at home, many parents for a number of varied reasons have allowed their native language to be lost. Today we know that speaking two languages since infancy is beneficial in many ways, and now there is consensus that being bilingual specifically helps the brain and the development of neurological flexibility, in other words brain activity itself. This is not a small thing, diverse scientific studies by neurologists tell of the brain activity required to use two or more languages. Beyond the controversy, what is certain is that those who dominate two languages have double the possibility for personal and professional development.
These are more than valid reasons for organizing an event of the magnitude of LéaLA, where over three days we have programmed more than 90 book presentations, seminars, talks and book signings by the best Spanish-language authors, and these are not only literary books, but also books on cooking, self-help, sports, current events, with a very special emphasis on activities for children. These activities are all completely free.
We want the Latino community to see LéaLA as their own space, a celebration of Spanish, and to understand that fighting for their rights includes the battle to rescue their language, their culture, their roots, their cultural heritage, especially at a time when the image of many of our countries — particularly Mexico — has fallen in the public opinion of many Americans and around the world.
We have confirmed the participation of: Alberto Ruy Sánchez, Carmen Boullosa, Laura Restrepo, Mónica Lavín, Sara Sefchovich, Pedro Ángel Palou, Elena Poniatowska, among 50 more renown authors.
LéaLA is for everyone. Come visit us on April 29, 30 and May 1 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, Concourse Hall. Remember it is completely free. LéaLA, as our ad campaign says, is the accent on Spanish, the celebration of our language, we invite you to join the celebration, and everyone is welcome!