Peter Dowling, PANZ Councillor for International and MD of Oratia Media reports on attending the Feria Internacional del Libro (FIL) in Guadalajara last week

Visitors come to the fair from all over Mexico

Visitors come to the fair from all over Mexico

Reputedly the world’s second largest book fair after Frankfurt, the Feria Internacional del Libro (FIL) takes place from late November in sunny Guadalajara, Mexico’s second city. With a population approximately that of New Zealand, Guadalajara is a busy yet not overwhelming hub, and the fair’s location in the Expo Guadalajara complex is handily located and easy to navigate.

This year’s instalment ran from 28 November to 6 December, with times dedicated for professionals on Monday to Wednesday. For the 20,000 or so representatives of almost 2000 publishing houses and agencies, these ‘closed to the public’ times are a welcome breather – nearly 800,000 visitors came to the FIL this year.

Lots of libros (books)

Lots of libros (books)

The Expo centre sets out a large international hall for exhibitors, an even larger one for Mexican publishers, and a lovely hall for children with an array of book activities and play areas. For professionals there is a meeting area and the Rights Centre where I was one of 120 publishers, agents, translators and national publishing organisations to take a table.

Talking the talk at the Rights Centre

Talking the talk at the Rights Centre

My four days at the FIL, helped by PANZ’s International Career Development Fund, afforded exchanges with a pantheon of book people from around the globe. Among these there was a strong presence of colleagues from the United Kingdom, this year’s Guest of Honour, well eclipsing the surprising light US presence.

Best of British in Guadalajara

Best of British in Guadalajara

FIL is without doubt the place to understand Latin American book markets. I enjoyed valuable meetings with publishers from the principal markets of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, along with the likes of Chile, Guatemala and (still here despite the country’s deep woes) Venezuela.

Just as UK and US multinationals have long dominated New Zealand’s book world, so the Spanish manage Latin America’s big houses. Planeta, Santillana, SM and Océano rank alongside the non-Hispanic leader, PenguinRandomHouse, in holding most market share. It was heartening to see how local independents, particularly in children’s books, have carved out their points of difference.

At the translation support programme seminar on 30 November

At the translation support programme seminar on 30 November

Although the most common response to meeting a publisher from New Zealand was ‘Muy lejos’ (How far away!), the positive view of what we represent and a readiness to explore cooperation were universal. I hope that the well-received seminar I delivered on New Zealand’s Publishing Market, and my participation in a lively presentation of national translation support programmes, help to raise our profile another notch or two.

A mariachi band bringing local sounds to the national hall

A mariachi band bringing local sounds to the national hall