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Location: Havana, Cuba

is a blog to give a fresh angle on a fascinating and beautiful Caribbean Island country that, despite being relatively small and with only 11 million people, has been a major player in American and world politics for a half century. I also suggest you try

Monday, February 13, 2006

Cuba Book Fair Moves to Provinces

By Circles Robinson

The Havana portion of Cuba’s annual International Book Fair came to a close on a cold, rainy and windy Sunday that, nevertheless, didn’t keep book lovers from turning out in droves.

The closing day featured popular Spanish singer-songwriter Joaquin Sabina presenting his book of poems entitled “Ciento Volando de Catorce.” Sabina told Cuban TV he was glad to be in Havana to visit friends and present his book. He also signed autographs for his many fans.

Now the fair moves to the other Cuban provinces beginning with western Pinar del Rio. According to the organizers, some 300,000 copies of 200 titles will be available to Pinar readers.

Thirty-four venues throughout the island are set to pick up where Havana left off and host the literature feast that continues through March 5.

Venezuela is this year’s special guest and numerous authors and publishing houses from the South American nation are on hand. Over the weekend, it was announced that Argentina will be the featured guest in the 2007 edition.

“Working for a cultural integration of Latin America and the Caribbean is a far-reaching strategic task,” said Cuban Culture Minister Abel Prieto upon welcoming Argentina as next year’s Country of Honor.

Cubans are avid readers and once again the International Book Fair proved to be the island’s most popular yearly event, bringing out entire families to purchase literature at heavily subsidized prices.

The Havana venue was the Morro-Cabana Fortress, once a symbol of foreign colonization and now an ample and romantic setting for cultural events overlooking Havana’s famous Malecon seafront.

Probably the only downside to this year’s fair was the absence of many US writers and intellectuals who wanted to attend but were prohibited by the hardened US government’s blockade on Cuba, an archaic policy that dates back to the early 1960s.

Novelist Barbara Kingsolver wrote that while her government forbids her from traveling to Cuba she still hopes “to touch Cuban soil” in the future. Nonetheless, she expressed her satisfaction that her novel The Poisonwood Bible was published in Cuba. “Literature is a bridge between peoples that can’t be broken by war, embargos, or any other type of rigid methods that governments use to force a group of people to agree with another,” stated the author.

Just this year the United Nations voted 182-4 condemning the blockade, but that hasn’t budged a president who in part owes his election victory to rightwing Cuban-American groups in Florida that oppose any contacts with the island.

In fact, the Bush administration has stepped up prosecution of US citizens caught having visited their Caribbean neighbor.

Heavy fines and continuous harassment by Federal Authorities are part of the travesty faced by religious people visiting their Cuban counterparts, people on bicycle tours, volunteers with social projects and just plain individuals wanting to see for themselves.

For Cuban-Americans, visiting a sick family member or friend is not reason enough to visit Cuba according the US government.

Several bookstores and the Pabellon Cuba exhibition center will continue to sell the fair’s many titles in the capital while the literary conferences, lectures, poetry readings, book presentations and children’s activities move across the island.


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