This article is adapted from Americas Quarterly’s print issue on Venezuela after Maduro
For book lovers, Guadalajara is the place to be in late November, when some 800,000 writers, publishers and editors descend on the city for the Feria Internacional del Libro (FIL), Latin America’s largest international book fair. Visitors come for the lectures and stay for the nightlife: Publishing houses throw exclusive after-parties at popular local watering holes.
But some worry that the excitement surrounding the FIL hasn’t fostered a year-round book culture in Guadalajara; when the fair winds down, so do the readings, writers’ workshops and cultural events. In response, independent bookstores and cafés have taken on the task of keeping literature in the public eye — and selling a few books in the process.
“A growing network of independent spaces is achieving what the FIL doesn’t,” said Luis Sánchez, the editor of Casa Territorio, an online magazine and small bookstore that hosts regular lectures and workshops.
The proliferation of venues like Territorio is meeting a demand for local literary events that gets drowned out by the FIL’s international focus, Sánchez said.
Like Territorio, Impronta Casa Editora’s mission is to foster and maintain literary culture in the city. Opened in the central Mexicaltzingo neighborhood in 2014, it is part bookstore, part art gallery and part printing house, and features restored century-old typesetting machines.
“We want to recover the value of the book as an object,” said co-owner Carlos Amentra, saying books can be works of art in their own right. Visitors at Impronta can tour the printing studio and browse its book collection over coffee in a light-bathed courtyard.
Elegante Vagancia, in the trendy Americana neighborhood, is another example. Artist Carlos Ranc opened the space in 2015, converting three rooms in his own home into an independent bookstore.
Though they are part of a new wave of Guadalajara book culture, Impronta and Elegante Vagancia take their cues from the traditional bookstores that dot the city. Among the dozen or so used bookstores on and around Manuel López Cotilla Street is Librería Itaca, which trades in rare, first-edition prints of classics like Pedro Páramoby Jalisco native Juan Rulfo.
But it’s not just independent booksellers that are taking part in this literary moment. The University of Guadalajara, which runs the FIL, recently opened Librería Carlos Fuentes, a 120,000-volume bookstore with dedicated rooms for lectures, performances and book discussions.
It seems on every corner — and in every season — Guadalajara is turning into a reader’s paradise.
Luelmo is a journalist based in Guadalajara. Renwick is a journalist based in New York.