Guadalajara’s Guest of Honor Spain Announces Its Program

In Feature Articles by Adam Critchley

As the IPA prepares its International Publishers Congress to time with the Guadalajara book fair, Spain presents its guest-of-honor plans.

At the announcement of the Spanish guest of honor program at the 2024 Guadalajara International Book Fair are, from left, University of Guadalajara dean Ricardo Villanueva Lomellí; Spanish minister of culture Ernest Urtasun i Domènech; and longtime Guadalajara fair director Marisol Shulz Manaut. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Adam Critchley

By Adam Critchley

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‘A Great Moment for Literature’
More than 150 of Spain’s authors are expected to be part of the delegation to Mexico when the country is guest of honor at the 38th Guadalajara International Book Fair. The fair runs November 30 to December 8 and is once more under the leadership of longtime director Marisol Schulz Manaut.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, the fair takes on heightened visibility in world markets this year because its run will coincide with the International Publishers Association‘s (IPA) biennial International Publishers Congress (December 3 to 6).

On Tuesday (July 9), the Spanish program joined Schulz and her team from the public-facing Guadalajara fair for a news conference at Mexico City’s Spanish embassy to talk about Madrid’s guest of honor program, which will mark the 85th anniversary of the arrival of Spanish exiles to Mexico following the civil war.

This is the second time Spain has been the designated guest of honor at Guadalajara, which is widely promoted as the largest of the Spanish-language book fairs. The Spanish market guested at Guadalajara first in 2000, and was at that time the first European country to receive the invitation. In addition, several of Spain’s regions have also been guests of honor: Catalonia in 2004; Andalusia in 2006; Castilla y León in 2010; and the city of Madrid in 2017.

‘A Two-Way Road’

On Tuesday, Spain’s minister of culture, Ernest Urtasun i Domènech was accompanied by Shulz and the dean of the University of Guadalajara, Ricardo Villanueva Lomellí. The event highlighted the deep cultural and historical ties between Spain and Mexico. While the Guest of Honor Spain slogan at Frankfurter Buchmesse in 2022 was “Spilling Creativity,” its slogan for this year’s Guadalajara fair is “A Two-Way Road,” reflecting the bonds between Mexico and Spain.

“A great opportunity to show our literature and the Spanish publishing industry to the world, and to connect with Latin America. “Ernest Urtasun i Domènech, Spanish minister of culture

A major associated theme of Spain’s participation is to be exile and memory, in light of the 1939 arrival of thousands of Spanish exiles in Mexico, to which they’d fled the regime of dictator Francisco Franco. Many of course were artists and intellectuals, and their arrival is seen as having enriched the cultural scene of Mexico.

Authors anticipated to be among those traveling to Guadalajara include Bernardo Atxaga; Katixa Aguirre; Ramón Andrés; María Dueñas; Ray Loriga; Rosa Montero; Anna Pacheco; Patricio Pron; Manuel Rivas; Irene Vallejo; and Julieta Valero.

All of Spain’s autonomous regions are to be represented by as many as 60 publishing houses, most of them independent houses.

Describing Guadalajara’s fair as “one of the world’s most important cultural events,” University of Guadalajara’s Villanueva said the event is “a space for the distribution of literature, arts, and culture, and an encounter for writers, scientists, and readers, placing Guadalajara and Mexico at the center of Spanish-language literature.”

Schulz described the fair she directs as “a great platform for the publishing business,” drawing, she said, 20,000 publishing professionals from 48 countries. She added that in the fair’s 37-year history, an average of 400 Spanish industry members have attended each year, a figure that’s of course expected to be much higher this year.

She also announced that the Nicaraguan author Sergio Ramírez, currently living in exile in Mexico, is in charge of coordinating Spain’s literary program at the fair.

Urtasun, the Spanish minister of culture, highlighted what he said is a high level of exchange and dialogue between the two countries, and said that when Mexico opened its doors to thousands of Spaniards, the country “offered a lesson in solidarity and fraternity to the world, a gesture which continues to this day.”

He told members of the news media, “Spain’s publishing industry is one of the country’s strongest sectors, with firm, post-pandemic growth. We’re going through a great moment for literature in our country, with an array of talented young writers. Our participation in this year’s Guadalajara fair comes at a great time for Spain, allowing us to take advantage of this platform to show that talent to the world.

“It’s a great opportunity to show our literature and the Spanish publishing industry to the world, and to connect with Latin America,” he said.

More Themes of the Program

María José Gálvez Salvador, who heads up books, comics, and reading at the Spanish ministry of culture, was part of the presentation in Mexico City on July 9 of Spain’s guest-of-honor plans for the 2024 Guadalajara International Book Fair. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Adam Critchley

Additional themes central to Spain’s participation are expected to include linguistic diversity, gender equity, and sustainability, Urtasun said, in part recognizing Spain’s multilingual character. This range is planned to be on display in some 35 literary events and forums that bring literature into proximity with the arts and sciences, as is the custom in much book-fair and -festival programming today.

Mexico, of course, is also a country replete with Indigenous languages, and Spain’s participation is also to include a translation of Federico García Lorca’s poem Grito hacia Roma, or Cry to Rome, into 30 such language of some 68 total tongues. That project is a collaboration between Spain’s Instituto Cervantes and a number of Mexican universities, while attending the FIL will be Spanish authors published in regional languages such as Euskara, Galician and Catalan, with their works translated into Spanish for Latin American readers.

Also at Tuesday’s press conference, María José Gálvez Salvador, the Spanish ministry of culture’s director of books, comic, and reading, highlighted the importance of Latin America as an export market for Spanish books, amid what she mentioned as a growth in regional readership along with Spanish-language readership in the United States.

“One of the aims, during the fair and beyond,” she said, “is to create a sustainable flow in terms of book distribution between Spain and the rest of the Spanish-language world, and we want all sectors of the publishing ecosystem to participate.”

She also highlighted the importance of illustrated books and comics, and of Spain’s intention to create a thriving space for those genres at this year’s fair in Guadalajara.

The Guest of Honor Spain pavilion is designed by Madrid-based architecture studio BURR, also references the “two-way road” theme, widening it beyond the mere human interaction to include natural elements such as bird migration and pollination, with a 1,000-square-meter (10,800 square feet) interior space displaying plants endemic to both countries.

The pavilion is also to feature two auditoriums and a bookstore selling 15,000 titles, as well as a reference library of books by the Spanish authors participating in the fair. That collection is to be donated to the University of Guadalajara’s library after the event.

The fair’s food festival is to be headed for the first time by a female chef, Spain’s Begoña Rodrigo da Jorge, who runs the Michelin-starred restaurant La Salita in Valencia.

The guest of honor at the 2023 Guadalajara International Book Fair was the European Union, its pavilion seen here. Image: FIL Guadalajara, Nabil Quintero


More on the Guadalajara fair can be found here as its site updates with new information, and more on the IPA’s International Publishers Congress at Guadalajara is here.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Guadalajara International Book Fair is here, and more on the Mexican book publishing market is here

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s world media partner. Porter Anderson contributed to this report.

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.