In Mexico: FIL Guadalajara’s Raúl Padilla, Dead at 68

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

Raúl Padilla López, the Guadalajara fair’s founder, was a controversial figure in Mexican culture whose death has been confirmed a suicide.

Raúl Padilla López at the 2022 Guadalajara International Book Fair, November 26. In this image, he’s discussing a display of Arabic literature during the opening of the Guest of Honor Sharjah pavilion. Image, FIL Guadalajara, Paula Vasquez

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Mourning a ‘Sensitive Death’
The community of international book publishing trade shows and book fairs has faced difficult news over the weekend, with Sunday’s announcement (April 2) from the Jalisco state attorney general’s office that Raúl Padilla López, the president and founder of the Guadalajara International Book Fair has died, apparently by his own hand. Padilla López was 68.

The University of Guadalajara—Padilla López was its 43rd rector, serving from 1989 to 1995—has issued an extensive statement on Padilla López’s “sensitive death,” calling him “one of the most important cultural promoters in the country, recognized throughout the world for his contributions to international dialogue.”

The governor of Jalisco, Enrique Alfaro, has confirmed that Padilla López died by suicide in his home, as relayed by regional news media, a gun and a note reportedly being found with the body. The state prosecutor’s office is reported to be conducting an investigation.

Padilla López was a native of Guadalajara, born there in 1954. He founded the Guadalajara International Book Fair in 1987, and it’s widely recognized as Latin America’s–and the Spanish language’s–largest under the direction of Marisol Schulz Manaut.

Hugo Setzer

Publisher Hugo Setzer—CEO of Manual Moderno, former president of the International Publishers Association (IPA), and current president of the  National Chamber of the Mexican Publishing Industry (CANIEM)—has spoken with Publishing Perspectives on the news of Padilla Lopez’s death. 

“I am deeply saddened by the sudden loss of Raúl Padilla,” Setzer says, “the founder and president of the Guadalajara International Book Fair.

“Mr. Padilla was one of the central cultural figures in Mexico and is to thank for what the Guadalajara Book Fair is today.

“The Mexican publishing industry mourns his passing and we will continue supporting his legacy. Raúl will be dearly missed.”

The Mexican filmmaker at author, while in Scotland, was among the first to note the death in social media, writing that Padilla had “always maintained the conviction that Guadalajara had a place in international culture.

Schulz: The Light That Raúl Left Us

Raúl Padilla López’s career was not without controversy, particularly in terms of political dynamics around Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI, the political party that held complete power in a one-party Mexico for some 70 years.

“As a team we are hurt, dismayed, and badly hit, but we will find strength to continue the legacy that Raúl Padilla López left us.”Marisol Schulz Manaut, Guadalajara International Book Fair

Columnist Salvador Camarena writes at El País of Padilla as a “visionary, gangster, educator, gunslinger, man of letters, cinema and music, nepotist, politician, humanist … ephemeral soccer baron, benefactor, entrepreneur (entrepreneur?) PRI member, PRD member,” and more.

The column, of course, reflects the deep sensitivities of the present moment, in which the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has moved to weaken the National Electoral Institute, the election agency that led the country’s young democracy out of one-party rule. The response has been massive protests on the streets, and an expected upcoming hearing in Mexico’s Supreme Court.

In touching on many of the elements of Padilla’s career that some consider questionable, Camarena concludes, “In the last 35 years, Padilla López has put his land and his university on the academic-cultural map of Mexico. Those who want to succeed him, or those who intend to take over that house of studies must offer, at least, to fill such controversial but successful shoes.”

In its statement, the university writes of the combination of cinematic and literary interests that marked Padilla’s career, noting that in addition to the city’s huge public-facing book fair, he also “founded the Muestra de Cine Mexicano, which later became the Guadalajara International Film Festival (FICG), thus expanding its reach and projection. Always with a visionary character, he promoted the creation of LéaLA, a book fair and cultural festival that year after year is based in the city of Los Angeles, California.”

The Guadalajara International Book Fair, however, remains a major anchor in Padilla’s accomplishments.

Marisol Schulz

Schulz, in her role as director-general of the fair, is quoted by the university, saying that the news of his death, “hits me professionally, but above all personally, because for me, in addition to being a visionary who did the incredible for the culture of our country, the culture of Jalisco, the culture in Spanish, in addition to all that, Raúl was a great friend, a person I was fortunate to have close by for almost 14 years and whom I knew from the first day I went to FIL Guadalajara, in 1987.”

Speaking for the organizing committee, she says, “We will follow his example. The FIL will continue with the light that Raúl left us and now with greater force than ever, because we owe to his memory the continuation of what he wanted so much: the FIL and each one of the projects that he started.

“As a team we are hurt, dismayed, and badly hit, but we will find strength to continue the legacy that Raúl Padilla López left us.

“Rest in peace, dear friend.”

These sentiments are echoed by Bodour Al Qasimi, the immediate past president of IPA and now president of the American University of Sharjah in her social channels:

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Guadalajara International Book Fair is here, more on the Mexican publishing market is here, more on world publishing’s trade shows and book fairs is here, and more obituaries in publishing are here

Publishing Perspectives is the global media partner of the International Publishers Association.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.