Charlotte Gibbs, Publisher, Toitoi Media reports:
On Saturday, I returned from the Guadalajara Book Fair – la Feria Internacionál del Libro de Guadalajara – which was held at the Expo Guadalajara Centre from 30 November to 8 December. Organised by the University of Guadalajara, it is the second largest book fair in the world and the largest in Latin America. It was an incredible experience – not only was it my first-ever book fair, it was also my first visit to Mexico. I was lucky enough to be guided by veteran publishers – Peter Dowling and Alessandra Zecchini from Oratia Media and Brian Morris from Huia Publishers. As an added bonus, Peter and Alessandra’s son Max assisted on the New Zealand stand, along with Guadalajara-native and recent publishing graduate Alejandra Elena Delgadillo Aceves.
Before arriving in Guadalajara, we spent a few days in Mexico City. At the invitation of the New Zealand Embassy, we met with people from the Mexican Ministry of Education and Ministry of Culture to talk about the New Zealand experience of revitalising an indigenous language. There are 68 indigenous languages in Mexico and over 30 are under immediate threat of extinction. The current government – only one year into a six year term – has made saving them a priority. Brian shared his insights into the Māori experience and initiatives to ensure the survival of te reo Māori. There was a real sense of comradeship and connection, and the exchange of ideas and challenges was heartfelt. It was a privilege to have been there.
We then headed to Guadalajara for the fair. The first few days were overwhelming and, while Peter introduced Brian to publishers, agents and old friends, I tried to get my head around it all. Toitoi has just published a Latin American Special Issue, translated into Spanish and Portuguese and it was well received. Brian presented some of Huia’s beautiful publications, including national award winners The Bomb and Legacy. As well as showcasing his own books, Peter also represented some incredible work from other New Zealand publishers. His long experience of Latin America and this fair, and fluency in Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese, was such an asset to the NZ stand and everyone who came by was made very welcome.
It is lovely to have an opportunity to reflect on my time in Mexico – the colour of the cities, the kindness of its people and the intensity of the fair made it very exciting. Everyone said that it is the very best book fair on the publishing calendar, governed by the warmth and friendliness of the Mexican people and their culture. More than anything, I am grateful for the opportunity to get to know my Kiwi colleagues better and for the chance to zoom out and consider my business from new perspectives. It was professional development at its very best. Every conversation sparked ideas, analysis and a realisation of the enormous opportunities out in the world for New Zealand publishers. It would be fantastic to have an even bigger presence there next year!