FIL Oaxaca, the home of all: the return to face-to-face fairs in Mexico
The city of Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s cultural centers where the contemporary and the ancestral coexist in all kinds of artistic expressions. For more than four decades, Proveedora Escolar, the book project that gave rise to the Almadía publishing house, has organized the Oaxaca Book Fair (FILO), a warm, and friendly event that has become one of the most important in the region. Carlos Rojas Urrutia, Lecturable‘s communication strategy designer, talks with Vania Resendiz, director of the fair.
You should always come back to Oaxaca and you have to experience its book fair sometime. «Everyone is welcome here. The FILO is everyone’s home,» says Vania Resendiz, director of the fair, with whom we spoke to share with PN readers her account of this 41st edition, which marked the return to face-to-face meetings of the Mexican publishing industry with positive numbers: during one week almost 300 guests gathered in more than 250 activities, attended by more than 19,000 people.
What is your assessment of this year’s FILO?
It was wonderful. After almost two years of totally virtual activities, in which travel was very limited and the activities were few, the atmosphere was one of companionship; of listening to each other and talking, embracing, and sharing. It was a reunion full of wonders. The sales report is very good, and most of the events were sold out, even with limited seating capacity.
«Although we didn’t take the books back to the streets, we did work with cultural centers, libraries, and bookstores to generate activities there.
FILO always tries to make a meeting that looks at what is happening in the current environment. For this edition, what was the starting point for planning this first fair in Mexico after the pandemic?
It was very important to meet again and think about how we could avoid crowds. Our project was to re-inhabit the spaces in the Historic Center of Oaxaca, which already had an established infrastructure and was open to collaborating with us. Although we did not return to the streets with books, we did work with cultural centers, libraries, and bookstores to generate activities there. It was partly an opportunity to recognize and reappropriate the space we inhabit, both in downtown Oaxaca and in community centers in neighboring municipalities.
FILO has a much complete literary program that focuses more on young local writers than the big international names. What did you learn from the pandemic to modify or continue with the conception of this meeting?
I think that in FILO we have worked on a clear path for many years: we seek collaboration with independent and university publishers, as well as creating spaces for young writers. With the pandemic, this spirit of collaboration has been accentuated. The publishing industry is very badly treated, so what we have to do is to link up and support each other. There is no other way. If we don’t build collaborative networks, especially with those who have been most affected, everything will remain the same. We must rethink everything. Surely for the next edition, we will follow the same path.
«Before, we were looking for a huge number of visitors: bringing schools and groups, wanting the number of visitors to increase every year… Now what we want is to continue to make it endearing, that people take away an experience through books, but also through the stories that they live here.
Do you see FILO 2021 as a turning point in the way the fair is organized?
Yes, I think differently. We discovered resilience and our ability to adapt. Before, we were looking for a huge number of visitors: bringing schools and groups, wanting the number of visitors to increase every year… Now what we want is to continue to make it endearing, that people take away an experience through the books but also through the stories that they live here. We want the fair to be more than just a week. We want it to transcend beyond for people. Whether or not it was a turning point is something that the public and those who participated will say. They will have the right words to explain it.
What moments do you remember from this edition of FILO?
The meetings with friends. To be able to look at each other again, to get close and listen to each other. Another was remembering the pretext that books are the object that makes all this possible: to meet in a state like Oaxaca and weave together many important moments of our stories.
FILO is growing and taking on an increasingly significant projection. How do you see the future of this fair that you direct?
FILO is becoming more and more consolidated and is moving forward so that people continue to make it their own. So that they know that books shelter us and that those who make books, and I am referring to the entire production chain, have the ability to react to situations as overwhelming as a pandemic, to give us hope and restore meaning to life.
«What we need now is to continue collaborating and supporting each other.»
Have we already reached the end point of the pandemic within the publishing industry and can we now focus on the challenges of recovery?
I don’t think so. We have just returned to the face-to-face fairs, which are a very important support for the industry. We don’t know how FIL Guadalajara is coming. We are just beginning to reestablish ourselves. If we think we are done, we may fall into going back to doing things the way they were done. What we need now is to continue collaborating and supporting each other.
Carlos Rojas Urrutia is a journalist and founding partner of Lecturable. He was CEO of MVB Latin America, a Frankfurt Book Fair company whose objective is to share innovative solutions for the future of book marketing. He has worked in the promotion and promotion of reading for the bookstores of Fondo de Cultura Económica, Educal and Gandhi, where he currently serves as marketing manager.