A Report from Tijuana’s Festival de Literatura del Noroeste

November 16, 2012

Last week Tijuana celebrated the tenth annual Festival de Literatura del Noroeste (FeLiNo), which began on 7 November, at its Cultural Center. The center itself is celebrating its thirtieth anniversary as perhaps Tijuana’s most iconic clump of buildings, including La Bola, the enormous concrete sphere that houses an IMAX theater, and El Cubo, its even less creatively named sister. Literary manager Mara Maciel, who manages a very active literary calendar at the Centro, consistently insists on including voices from an expansive literary map of Mexico, which features children’s book writers, graphic novelists, genre writers, poets, translators, and mainstream writers alike.

Last Thursday night I read at dinner with Gerardo Cárdenas, a poet and organizer from Ciudad Juárez, who publishes Hoja de Ruta (“Route Sheet”—the expression for “bus timetable” also suggests a sheet of paper in Spanish), a diminutive biweekly magazine of prose and poetry, published in an edition of five hundred and distributed for free throughout the Juárez public transportation system. Cárdenas and his writers also do readings at bus stops and even on the bus. The latest edition is Juan José Arreola’s Cuentos y Bestias (Stories and beasts), which compresses seven stories into fourteen pages so that most can be consumed in a single bus ride. His “Horror Story” is just two sentences long: “The woman I loved has turned into a ghost. I am the place of her apparitions.” Cárdenas is also organizer of Ciudad Juárez’s Encuentro de Escritores, which featured a simultaneous reading in twenty-five different countries for its 2012 edition.

Friday afternoon I heard graphic novelist combination acts Dono Sánchez Almara–Patricio Betteo and Salvador “Mudo” Vásquez-Bernardo Fernández “Bef” engage in a conversation that World Literature Today has been involved in since at least 2006, about their inclusion in the literary world, and how they fit into the contemporary literary landscape of Mexico. Their work is some of the most exciting being published in the Spanish language today, by publishers including Marvel and Seix Barral, and I expect to see it available in English translation soon.

Later events include roundtables on Mexican science fiction and horror literature, the border, and cultural journalism in Mexico as well as a wide range of readings, including a bilingual performance by American poet Anthony Seidman and Mexican poets Gaspar Orozco, Martín Camps, and Olga García, all poets who have lived on both sides of the border and whose work as poets, translators, and scholars bears that experience’s positive influence. 

Poet David Shook’s most recent book-length translations include Jorge Eduardo Eielson’s Room in Rome, a finalist for the PEN Award and National Translation Award. Their forthcoming books include a new translation of Mario Bellatin’s Beauty Salon and a collection of Spanish-language poetry, Atlas estelar.