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Bogotá’s International Book Fair is the coolest event in town

Argentina's Stand at FilBo
Joanna Ruiz

Joanna Ruiz

Journalist and migrant. I have a huge passion for writing and telling stories. I live in Bogotá since 2014. Instagram: joa_ruiz / Blog: leaquealgoqueda.blogspot.com

In a city with plenty of concerts, soccer games, theaters, and more, you might think I’m exaggerating when I say that FILBo (Bogotá’s International Book Fair) is the most important event that takes place in Bogotá, but in this article, I will prove that I’m not.

I am a book lover. A true one. I can’t imagine my life without books, without reading, and without those stories that have shaped my mind and soul. However, that’s not the reason why I believe that the Feria Internacional del Libro de Bogotá (Bogotá International Book Fair – FILBo) is the most important event that takes place in this city. The FILBo gathers not just important writers, journalists, and other personalities from the cultural world, but it also provides a platform to talk about other relevant topics. During the time that it lasts, it makes headlines and touches on trending topics every day, not just locally, but internationally. “Have you been to the fair yet?” becomes a very popular question.

The Festival Estéreo Picnic (Estéreo Picnic Festival), the Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro (Ibero-American Theater Festival), and Alimentarte are all great and huge events, but I’ll tell you five reasons why I believe FILBo is the coolest event in town!

The books

It might sound obvious, but it’s not. At FILBo, you find books from different publishing houses, about different topics, and in different shapes and sizes. You actually get variety. Do you like best sellers? You got them. Are you fond of classics? There are thousands. Are you the one who judges a book by its cover? There are precious editions that will catch your eye. No matter what kind of reader you are, you will find something that will fit you.

Thanks to the FILBo, my library has grown every year. The Duel by Joseph Conrad, Boys in Zinc by Svetlana Aleksiévich, and Submission by Michel Houellebecq (and so many others) are some of the treasures that I have bought at the fair over the years.

It’s not just about literature

At one FILBo, I attended a conversation between Jody Williams (Nobel peace Prize winner) and the Colombian journalist, Alberto Salcedo Ramos, that was incredibly inspiring. I realized that we don’t have to be perfect to try to change the world; we just have to start doing something at some point and see how far we can go.

You might be thinking, “what does this have to do with literature?” Although they were talking about Jody’s book, it wasn’t a conversation about writing, genres, or literary texts. This conversation shows exactly how FILBo goes beyond books and, as a good cultural event, makes you think about topics that matter.

Book launches and conversations

Many books are launched at FILBo, which is a great opportunity to meet some national and international authors. There are also discussions in which writers can talk deeper about their work and can be really amazing.

I went to one where the Argentinian author, Selva Almada, talked about her book Chicas Muertas (Dead Girls). During her talk, Almada covered topics such as gender violence and machismo, and how yellow journalism treats these themes. It was so moving that I ended up getting her book, and her signature on it, of course.

Author's Presentation at Bogotá's International Book Fair
© Photograph by Joanna Ruiz Méndez

The guests

JM Coetzee at FilBo
© Photograph by Joanna Ruiz Méndez

If you are a book enthusiast, this is an opportunity to meet the stars of the literary world. Renowned writers like Mario Vargas Llosa, Svetlana Aleksiévich, and J.M. Coetzee, for instance, have been at FILBo.

I want to tell you an anecdote that still excites me. After reading Dusklands, Diary of a Bad Year and Summertime, I declared myself a huge fan of J.M. Coetzee.  When I found out he was one of the international guests in 2017, I decided I had to meet him. I went to two small events where he was going to be: a book signing and a discussion. At the first one, I only managed to tell him with a trembling voice:

“You are my favorite living writer.”
He looked me in the eye for a few seconds and told me: “thank you very much”.

It wasn’t my most eloquent phrase, but I keep that moment in my mind and heart as one of the best in my life. FILBo gave me the opportunity to meet a legend here in Bogotá and that’s something I will be thankful for forever!

Coetzee's signature in a book at  Bogotá's International Book Fair
© Photograph by Joanna Ruiz Méndez

The guest country

There is always a guest country at FILBo. What does that mean? It means that one pavilion is completely dedicated to one nation, its literature, its culture, and its food. Since I’ve been here, there have been these 5 guests: Perú, Macondo (the magical town created by Gabriel García Márquez), the Netherlands, France, and Argentina. It’s a nice experience to be able to immerse yourself in these places without leaving Bogotá.

Holanda's stand at FilBo
© Photograph by Joanna Ruiz Méndez

FILBo 2019

This year’s FILBo will take place from April 25 to May 6. The guest country will be Colombia! Although it might seem weird that Colombia is inviting itself, I can’t wait to visit its pavilion because, as you already know, this country has a great culture, delicious food, and AMAZING authors.

Like every year, the event takes place at Corferias (Carrera 37 No. 24 – 67). You can find more information about FILBo 2019 on the fair’s website. Some of the guests will be the great Spanish writer and journalist, Rosa Montero, and the controversial Colombian author, Fernando Vallejo.

How to get there

I always have 2 options when it comes to going to Corferias: taxi or Transmilenio. In the second case, I always get off at the Corferias station, although you can do it at CAD too. I’ll leave you 2 maps where you can check to see how the route is in each case.

Map of how to get to Bogotá's International Book Fair
© Photograph by Google Maps

Corferias station – Corferias:

Map of how to get to  Bogotá's International Book Fair 2
© Photograph by Joanna Ruiz Méndez

CAD – Corferias:

What to wear

I always wear sneakers when I go to FILBo and I recommend you do the same. The last thing you want is to stop your book search because you are not comfortable with your shoes. If you want to bring a backpack to keep your new books safe, it is a great idea too. Carrying a lot of heavy bags could be tiring after some time.

Did you get excited about FILBo? I hope you did because I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I do! If you have already been there and have a nice story to tell about the fair, write it down in the comments section below!

Keep visiting Colture for more information on other great events in Bogotá.

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