Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The 19th Annual Havana International Book Fair - Feria Internacional del Libro de La Habana - considered by some to be the most important in Latin America, is scheduled for February 13-20, 2010.

The entire island becomes a festival for books. Beginning in Havana's San Carlos de la CabaƱa fortress overlooking Havana Bay, the fortress becomes a fairground with numerous expo pavilions and several halls where authors present their books throughout the day. There are also poetry readings, children’s activities, art exhibitions, museum events, and evening concerts. The Book Fair then extends to other cities throughout all fourteen provinces, ending in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba. Over one hundred international publishing houses exhibit their books.

Each year, the fair, whose motto is Leer es Crecer ("To Read is to Grow"), highlights a country—last year it was Chile—and features international booths, screenings, and author readings. It reviews all aspects of Cuban libraries, and Cuban literary and cultural production. The fair is an all-encompassing event drawing huge crowds.

Cuba boasts a 93% literacy rate, the highest in Latin America but it was hard won. At the time of the 1959 revolution, the illiteracy rare was 26%. During 1960-61 there was a major push for island-wide literacy and the illiteracy rate dropped from 26% to 7%. The Cuban literacy program, Si, Se Puede ("Yes, We Can"- no relationship to a certain U.S. president) is now used as an international model, and over twenty-seven nations have adopted it to success.

Overlapping for three days with the Book Fair is the Havana International Jazz Festival, February 7-16th. Double-whammy. Add the great food, the dancing, and the people and this is a monster event.

The Havana Book Fair routinely attracts librarians from all over the world, and their feedback on the experience is uniformly positive. University and public librarians in the U.S. can legally attend as professionals and LegalCubaTravel.com provides an easy step-by-step license/visa application kit.

Cuba Educational Tours has an all-inclusive travel program for the Havana Book Fair. Early registration to ensure participation is encouraged.

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