Weekend at Filbo: The International Book Fair in Bogotá


I visited the capital during the last week of April for one sole purpose: to finally attend the International Book Fair in Bogotá, known commonly as FILBO (Feria Internacional del Libro de Bogotá).

In my four years of studying literature, I had never been able to go. My goal for next year is to attend the Hay Festival in Cartagena, which I haven’t gotten the opportunity to see either, but that’s another story.

I knew that this annual book event always takes over Corferias, and this year I was able to visit Ryan, who went with me!

It was magical, just as I imagined. Unfortunately, it was a bit disorganized, which I hear is odd, and could have been due to a wish to save paper.

We had to search frantically for a map and a program, to know what events were when. At Medellín annual book fair, the Fiesta del Libro, the program is almost flawless, and it’s easily found.

After working at the festival here for two years, it was hard to understand the dynamic of the event at the capital.


In a Nutshell

The International Book Fair in Bogotá takes place once a year around April or May. Every year, a new guest country is invited.

In 2014, Peru was invited, and their very own Mario Vargas Llosa, Peru’s Nobel Prize winner and a member of Latin America’s “Boom,” made an appearance.

This year, I was anxiously awaiting the guest country, with no particular expectations.

Finally, I heard, the “country” was Macondo, Gabriel García Márquez fictional town from One Hundred Years of Solitude

Therefore, everything would be adapted to honor the anniversary of the death of our very own Nobel Prize winner.

The cost of entry for adults was of 7,000 pesos ($3), and students paid 5,500 pesos ($2) during the week. Three-day passes were also available for 15,000 pesos ($6).

For almost two weeks, the city adapted to welcome though I’m sure for many it went unnoticed, the exaggerated costeño (coast culture) of the well-known writer from Aracataca.

In the very middle of Corferias, a makeshift cockpit became the center for everything García Márquez: from his newspaper articles, to articles about him, knickknacks, coast-inspired food (crab puffs with plantain blew my mind) and many more filled the building and kept the visitors coming.

All this, of course, accompanied by hundreds of book stands, dozens of conferences, book launches and signings, among many other activities.

Festival map
Layout of Corferias during the Book Fair

Why It’s So Important

In the end, we still have our book fair in Medellín, no? Yes, of course.

Fiesta del Libro is one of the biggest events of the city that brings in hundreds of thousands of people and keeps the city alive. I have nothing against our wonderful event.

However, Bogotá’s book fair occupies entire blocks in a convention center. I know, it will never be Jardín Botánico, but it has a wonderful variety sure to appeal to every taste, plus events for all ages.

The fact that it is internationally recognized as a big time cultural event puts Colombia on the map every year.

We interact and exchange with the guest country, we open ourselves up to literary and philosophical tourism (is that a thing?).

For me, it could easily be compared to adult Disney World; it has so many events and activities that you can’t possibly do them all in one day, you must take comfortable walking shoes, possibly snacks and be ready to spend some money.

During the last weekend of the event, they had record-breaking entries.

This explains why organizations like AA (seen in the first photo in this story) choose to rent out stands though they aren’t necessarily book related.

Chalk art
Chalk portrait of Gabriel García Márquez at Filbo


The Crowd Favorites

Apart from the obvious center of attention, Macondo, and similar to any book fair I’ve been to, the Comic and Anime section was always full. You must be ready to walk through tumults and sweat a little, but it’s worth it.

There are also the major publishers such as Random House, Océano, Planeta, SM Ediciones, and many independent ones (which are my personal favorites) like El Peregrino, Tragaluz, to name a couple.

Bookstores as little as the little cubicles downtown, the big guys, and alternative ones like La Valija Del Fuego make an appearance as well.

However, you can find much more than books, comics and graphic novels. Posters, bookmarks, jewelry, food, decoration, and many other objects will be available.

Among those who travelled from Medellín were three of our illustrators, present in the “Punto y Letra” stand: Leen, Dibujos Marín and La Libretería.

Fernando Jaramillo
Fernando Jaramillo signing a book for the children’s novel cart.

Fernando Jaramillo at the Fair

Our very own Fernando Jaramillo, winner of the national young adult novel contest 2015, launched his book, “Summer Wine,” at Filbo, taking advantage of the opportunity to talk about the inspiration behind it, the impact it has had and the possibilities for the future.

He is the youngest writer to win the award and has shown his potential and willingness to write about Medellín the way the locals know it.

I, having read the novel, recommend it to anyone. The Spanish is simple enough for someone at a beginner/intermediate level and I am personally working on its translation to English.

In the end, I realized four days at the book fair was not long enough. If it were up to me, I’d go every single day, to every conference (especially since my favorite author didn’t make it this year), and enjoy the culture, knowledge and excitement that the annual event brings with it…and the crab puffs. I’ll never forget the crab puffs.

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