Publishers located in 31 countries are participating in this event. The majority are from Latin American countries, including Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Chile, and Guatemala. There are sizable exhibits from Spain, Italy, and Germany. This year the book fair is dedicated to Italy, which has a large display of books from 80 publishing houses. Also represented are publishers located in 11 African countries, from South Africa to Senegal, and a few from Asian nations.
A noticeable aspect of the book fair is the expansion of books published in Cuba over the past several years, part of the overall economic recovery. In a television interview several days before the book fair opened, Carlos Mas Zabala, vice-president of the Cuban Book Institute, explained that last year the number of books published was three times the number printed in 1993, during the worst of the economic crisis precipitated by the collapse of favorable trade relations and aid from the former Soviet Union. More than 300 new Cuban titles are being exhibited at the fair this year.
One of the booths drawing a lot of interest is that of Pathfinder Press, which has participated in every Havana Book Fair since 1986. An international team of volunteers from the United Kingdom, Canada, Iceland, Sweden, Australia, and France is staffing the exhibit throughout the week-long fair.
As the Pathfinder volunteers began setting up the day before the inauguration, several Cuban workers who were constructing the fair's booths and involved in security tasks stopped by to check out the books, exchange views on politics, and help get the booth ready. Two titles that most caught their attention were Habla Malcolm X (Malcolm X Speaks) and "U.S. Imperialism Has Lost the Cold War," the lead article of the newest issue of the Marxist magazine Nueva Internacional.
Pathfinder is launching three new titles at the book fair. One is the just-released Spanish translation of Capitalism's World Disorder by Jack Barnes, a book that presents the political views of the U.S.-based Socialist Workers Party on the sweeping changes in the world class struggle from the beginning of the 1990s to the present.
Two events at the book fair will launch the other new Pathfinder titles. One will feature the English and Spanish editions of Che Guevara Talks to Young People, a collection of speeches by the Argentine-born Cuban revolutionary leader compiled with the cooperation of Casa Editora Abril, the publishing house of Cuba's Union of Young Communists (UJC). Another event will present Pathfinder's Making History: Interviews with Four Generals of Cuba's Revolutionary Armed Forces along with the Spanish-language edition produced by Editora Política, the publishing house of the Communist Party of Cuba.
These events are among the many book launches, panel discussions, and talks scheduled during the book fair. The inauguration of the fair featured Cintio Vitier, one of Cuba's most prominent writers and guest of honor at the book fair this year.
On the first day, the organizers also opened a special pavilion devoted to children's literature, which is in high demand in this country. The event featured cultural presentations by schoolchildren focused on the demand in Cuba--which is widely and deeply expressed here--that the U.S. government return Elián González to his country and immediate family. This was one of the daily actions that have been organized throughout the island over the past weeks as part of the campaign for the boy's return.
This year the book fair is being held at the historic La Cabaña fortress. The well-preserved 18th century Spanish fort, which overlooks Havana Bay, has particular revolutionary significance. It served as Che Guevara's Rebel Army command post after the victory of the Cuban revolution in January 1959. It also became known as a place where the communist leader promoted cultural events among the soldiers stationed there, such as ballet performances, concerts, plays, and poetry readings, as part of pointing the road forward for working people to broaden their culture as they strive to build a new society.
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