The Bogotá Fair’s Adriana Ángel: ‘Job of My Dreams’

In News by Adam Critchley

Adriana Ángel, director of the Bogotá International Book Fair, looks to expand the show’s professional focus and establish Bogotá as a center for publishing.

Adriana Ángel, director of Bogotá International Book Fair. Image: FILbo, Emilio Barriga

By Adam Critchley

This Year’s Theme: ‘Reading Nature’
In its 36th iteration running until May 2, the public-facing Bogotá International Book Fair has added more activities for professionals, and welcomes Brazil as guest of honor this year.

“It’s the job of my dreams,” Adriana Ángel tells Publishing Perspectives. The director of the fair—which is referred to as FILbo here—is still a relatively new book fair leader,  having taken on the role in 2022 to produce her first fair the following year.

She outlines her main objectives as growing the show’s professional sphere, “to continue positioning Bogotá as the epicenter for the publishing business,” she says. “For that, we’re working on training and specialization, and on the business side, to offer our exhibitors and publishers greater opportunities to connect with each other.

“This is a fair that reinvents itself every year,” Ángel  says. “We want to surprise visitors, and it’s very important that we improve their experience. We have revamped the fair’s Web page and launched an app, making it easier for visitors to navigate the fair and find the events that interest them.”

This year, the FILBo inaugurates a series of professional sessions for publishers of comics and graphic novels, with publishers of the visual narrative sector occupying an entire pavilion.

“Every little detail helps to improve the visitor experience,” Ángel says.

In 2023, the Bogotá Fair Drew 605,000+ Attendees

Fellows in the 2024 Bogotá fellowship program for publishers and scouts are seen here with Bogotá fair director Adriana Ángel at the center. From left are fellowship program leader Sherif Bakr; Rita Mattar, director, Editora Fósforo; Adriana Ángel; James Tookey, co-director, Pereine Pres; Jacoba Casier, acquisitions editor, De Geus; and Nathan Matos, founder, Editoria Moinhos. Image: Sherif Bakr

Last year’s fair, which lasted 15 days, attracted more than 605,000 visitors, and a higher number is expected this year with an extra day added: a total 16-day run.

“A book fair with a big international element like this one really helps the whole publishing scene in Colombia, and makes it an important point on the map that people have to visit if they’re interested in Latin American literature.”Sherif Bakr

Adding a day and moving the sessions for professionals to the first Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Ángel says, will make it easier for publishing professionals to also attend the Buenos Aires International Book Fair, this year running Thursday (April 25) through May 13.

The Bogotá fair runs a fellowship program for publishers and scouts, this year led by Sherif Bakr, very familiar to readers of Publishing Perspectives, the director of the Egyptian publishing house Al Arabi and a member of the Freedom to Publish committee of the International Publishers Association (IPA). Many attendees at Bogotá are likely to be involved in the IPA’s International Publishers Congress in Mexico, set in December in Guadalajara.

“For me,” Bakr tells Publishing Perspectives, coming from the other end of the world, I always hear that there are three big book fairs in Latin America: Guadalajara, Buenos Aires, and Bogotá, and that they are the must-see [shows] in this region.

“The fellowship program,” he says, “for someone coming from so far away like me—and with no Spanish–offers a very good perspective on the small, independent publishers that they focus on here, which is very interesting and inspiring.”

He talks of the value of seeing “the market itself and how the book fair is run, how they discover new talent. There are publishing houses that specialize in new voices, but what happens is that when they become known, they go to Europe, represented by a European agent or publishing house. So a book fair with a big international element like this one really helps the whole publishing scene in Colombia, and makes it an important point on the map that people have to visit if they’re interested in Latin American literature.”

This year’s six fellows are Carolina Orloff (Argentina) of Charco Press; Carmen Pinilla (Spain); Jacoba Casier (De Geus, the Netherlands); James Tookey (United Kingdom, Pereine Press); Rita Mattar (Brazil, Editora Fósforo); and Nathan Matos (Brazil, Editora Moinhos).

“The fellows’ program,” Ángel  says, “allows them to gain a perspective into new and emerging authors from Colombia. There’s also a rising level of interest in Latin American authors, she says, from other latitudes. “They come on the hunt for authors published by independent publishers in the region, in a market that’s growing, and not just in Colombia, but also in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile–authors receiving a lot of attention and winning prizes outside the region” in a sector such as Latin American children’s books.

“One of our main aims is to make the Bogotá fair stand out for its literary and cultural program. Every year it has a theme, and this year that theme is Reading Nature—tying in book presentations with the theme of caring for, and appreciating, the environment.

At the 2024 Bogotá International Book Fair, Huila and its capital city Neiva are this public-facing fair’s regional and city guests this year, featuring the centenary of the publication of the novel ‘La Vorágine’ by Neiva-born author José Eustasio Rivera and translated by John Charles Chasteen in 1928 as ‘The Vortex.’  Image: Publishing Perspectives, Adam Critchley

The fair, Ángel says, serves as an important platform in Latin America for publishers from outside the region, with Iran, Palestine, Portugal, South Korea, and Turkey among the countries that have stands at this year’s fair.

“This is a fair that reinvents itself every year. We want to surprise visitors, and it’s very important that we improve their experience.”Adriana Ángel

The fair extends its reach beyond the Corferias convention center into other parts of Bogotá, with some 200 events in bookstores, schools, and libraries in the city, in a bid to reach a wider audience, while the show also organizes events in other parts of the country for its guest authors.

Last year, the show inaugurated its guest region and city program, each year welcoming a different department of Colombia. This year it’s the turn of Huila, and its capital city Neiva, in a nod to the centenary of the publication of the novel La Vorágine by Neiva-born author José Eustasio Rivera and translated by John Charles Chasteen in 1928 as The Vortex. The 1924 original is considered a classic of Colombian and Latin American literature.

“Having a Colombian city and region as guests of honor,” Ángel says, “also allows us to explore their literary output and bring authors to the fair.”

The program complements the guest nation of honor, this year Brazil, and the presence of Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, at the show’s opening inauguration underscored the importance of the fair, a show of support that Ángel describes as “an historic moment.”

In 2016, Bogotá launched its rights center, reopened this year after a pandemic hiatus. Ángel acknowledges the return of trading has been slow. “But this year we are on our way up again,” she says, “and relaunching our objectives for the long-term.”

One of her aims is to further grow the professional side of the fair, she says, “with more specialized training sessions, for publishers, editors, distributors, illustrators, and translators, and to strengthen our alliances with public and private bodies to grow the fair and democratize access to books and reading, to reach more readers.”

Fairgoers await entry at the 36th Bogotá International Book Fair, this year running for more than two weeks. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Adam Critchley


More from Publishing Perspectives on the international book publishing industry’s fairs and trade shows is here, more on the Colombian market is here, more on Spanish-language publishing is here, and more on Latin America is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s world media partner.

About the Author

Adam Critchley

Adam Critchley is a Mexico-based freelance writer and translator. His articles have been published in Latin American Literature Today, Brando, Forbes, GQ, Gatopardo, Publishers Weekly, Travesías and Vinísfera, among other publications, and his short stories have appeared in The Brooklyn Review, El Puro Cuento and Storyteller-UK. His translations include a series of children's books based on indigenous Mexican folk tales. He can be contacted at adamcritchley@hotmail.com.