LatinaLista -- It used to be that public libraries had maybe one program and devoted a few shelves to books in the Spanish language. Not so anymore.
According to a study by the American Library Association (ALA), Spanish is the most supported non-English language in public libraries. Seventy-eight percent of libraries reported Spanish as the priority #1 language, after English, to which they develop services and programs.
So, it's not surprising that this year the United States will host its first international Spanish-language book fair in a state that has the largest Hispanic population in the country -- California. To be precise, the three-day book event will be held in Los Angeles, a city nestled in a county that has the largest Latino population of any county in the nation.
Dubbed LéaLA, the book fair will be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center from April 29-May 1, 2011 and is free to the public. It's an initiative organized by the University of Guadalajara USA Foundation and supported by the Guadalajara International Book Fair, Feria Internacional del Libro; and the University of Guadalajara in Los Angeles.
"This book fair is the first of its kind in the U.S.," says Marisol Schulz, Director of LéaLA. "LéaLA was conceived as a cultural festival where the spinal cord is the literary program, a space where authors from Latin American countries and U.S. Latino writers can find a home that reflects the U.S. Latino reality. A place where Hispanics from all walks of life can rediscover their roots, reading, culture and understand the new society they are building in the U.S."
The event is attracting over 80 publishers and more than 100 high-profile authors such as: Isabel Allende, Elena Poniatowska, Laura Restrepo, Francisco Martin Moreno, Xavier Velasco and Sandra Lorenzano.
Additional high-profile personalities coming are the Director of the Royal Spanish Academy, Jose Manuel Blecua; former Miss Universe, Dayanara Torres; singer, Jose Jose; actress Kate del Castillo, as well as other celebrities who will read to children in the kids' zone.
The event isn't solely author signings. There are plenary sessions people can sit in on dealing with "current events, immigration, the vitality of Latino culture in the U.S. and Latin America, the history and roots of Latin American countries, mysteries of love and sex, personal finance, mental and physical health for women, gay history, the drug trade, Mexican cinema in L.A., the art of Mexican cuisine, and the education crisis, among others."
Because it is so near Cinco de Mayo, cultural programming is a big part of the book fair too. There are nightly concerts (not free) at the Nokia Theatre with Mexican recording artists like Lupillo Rivera and Pedro Fernandez, an appearance by The Ballet Folklorico of the University of Guadalajara, and what celebration is complete without mariachis.
As to be expected, because the focus is Spanish-language literature, the event is conducted in Spanish. Yet, if the hope is to foster appreciation of Spanish literature in a new generation of U.S. Latinos, who are basically bilingual or English-dominant, it makes sense to create some programming in English.
If for no other reason than to convey the fact that some things just cannot be translated.
(Editor's Update: In response to an email question from Latina Lista, Samuel Bernal Martínez, community manager of LéaLA, writes Latina Lista that many of the activities at LéaLA will be conducted in both English and Spanish. "So the people, who do not speak Spanish, will be able to attend and enjoy the book fair's programs," Martinez writes.)