Even as EU sanctions against the Venezuelan government were renewed for a further year the 14th Venezuela International Book Fair got underway this month, and whether thanks to indifference to the problems at home, or because the event provided a distraction from the problems at home, the 14th FILVEN (Feria Internacional del Libro de Venezuela) didn’t just break previous attendance records, but left the old numbers in the dust.
In 2017 150,000 turned out for the 13th FILVEN, in what was regarded as a successful literary event. This is Latin America after all, and we all know Latinos don’t read and trying to sell books in the region is a waste of time.
Or maybe not. In fact Latin America is a hotbed of literary activities, and if regular bookstores don’t see as much action as they’d like, the interest in book fairs and festivals across the region tell a very different story.
Take Guatemala – 50,000 attending the Guatemala book fair.
Or Panama. A book fair in tiny Panama? Try 100,000 visitors.
And let’s not forget Colombia’s Bogota fair – 575,000 visitors this year.
Or Peru’s Lima fair with 565,000 visitors.
Or Brazil’s 663,000 turnout for the São Paulo Bienial.
Mexico’s children’s book fair FILIJ this month is expecting attendance of 400,000, while Mexico’s Guadalajara fair later this month is anticipating over 800,000 visitors.
UPDATE: FILIJ numbers are in. A new record at 547,759.
None of which quite match the 1.2 million that turn out every year for the Buenos Aries fair in Argentina.
Throw in the record 663,000 at FILVEN (642,822 if you must know) and in this simple snapshot of the Latin American book fair scene this year – which is far from comprehensive – we are looking at almost 5 million people turning out to book fairs.
At these events millions of books are sold for many millions of dollars. At FIL Lima this year, for example, those 565,000 visitors collectively spent $5.8 million on books, none of which will show up as sales in the retailer counts.
No sales numbers yet for FILVEN, which finished Sunday, but ponder this. Those 643,000 visitors across the eleven day event equates to an average of more than 58,000 visitors per day.
58,000 people per day for eleven days attending a book fair in Venezuela.
But still we are told Latinos don’t read.