Havana – Feria Del Libro at La Cabaña Fortress

16 Mar


nfc capAs I had arrived early in Havana on purpose to take advantage of the relaxed atmosphere and to enjoy the city without all the cigar pressure of the Festival, one of my goals was to buy some books by renowned Cuban writers.

What better venue to buy these books than the annual International Book Fair celebrated at La Cabaña Fortress across the tunnel.

Off we set out, Jo and I, and we got to enjoy a party like atmosphere.

From motorized gliders ( at 50 CUC for a 10 minute flight ) to country cooking and all in between was present.

But the first thing we noticed was the long lines to buy a ticket and get into the fair proper. All under a blistering sun.

Guess being a “Yuma” has advantages too, as I was approached rather quickly and was able to buy us 2 tickets for a cookie – giving the guy a tremendous profit and saving myself from a heatstroke.

Now, the same problem we encountered inside the fairgrounds and the different stalls selling books : long, long lines. Which in fact is not a problem at all to Cubans as they encounter them all-over their daily life.

A few weeks later I’d witness long lines of workers and students “voluntarily” sent in by bus from their factories and universities to sign the condolence book for Chavez at the Plaza de la Revolucion.

In fact the longest line I encountered at the Fair was one stretching across two streets, asking I was told it was the line to exchange money at the Cadeca.

Logical, as everything ( but the entry tickets ) from books to drinks and food had to be paid in hard cookies.

The author I was looking for, Leonardo Padura, was well known in Cuba, he was not any black-list, not censored by the government and … nowhere available at the Fair.

Sure he was popular, sure people liked his Mario Conde series of novels, sure they knew about him – but : No books on sale in Cuba.

I was told that his latest novel had been published in Cuba with a release of 300 books. Says all. The excuse I kept hearing was : He’s published in Spain.

All that was on display were obscure writings, children’s books, revolutionary, marxist & liberation theory pamphlets, all kinds of out-modelled and failed theories, really. Nowhere the voices of the oppressed, mostly the writings of the oppressors.

After a few futile hours wasted searching for a decent book or two, I decided to just give up and concentrate on other, more mundane things – like big female bottoms or how fat Cubans can be, which is not from eating too much and not moving enough but from eating grease, junk and no vitamins. Can’t blame them. It’s only Yumas who can afford the luxury to eat in Paladares.

I also went and said hello to Cueto, the roller, in person before having a few pics taken next to his wax copy at the store.

We had a light lunch, a few beers and I invited Jo to take a flight on the glider – he looked at the contraption and quickly refused my invitation saying it was a government outfit carrying out the flights ( and pocketing the money).

I later managed to get myself a few copies of Padura’s writings from the dealers at the Plaza de Armas book-stalls. Each costing 15 cookies after bargaining – a monthly wages for a Cuban.

So – if according to the Book Fair’s motto : Leer es crecer or : To read is to grow – I went in a giant and came out a midget …


One Response to “Havana – Feria Del Libro at La Cabaña Fortress”

  1. Keith 16/03/2013 at 20:22 #

    LOL. Picture 22 is a classic, Nino! Yellow and turquoise glory – you sure have an eye for beauty! Thanks for sharing – now I need to go have a hard drink! LOL.