On the eve of the international book fair, Costa Rican leaders sang the praises of the written word, saying reading is a tool that can directly dispel poverty and inequality. Before President Luis Guillermo Solís cut the ceremonial tape during the festival’s inauguration Thursday at the Antigua Aduana, he said books are a vital resource for developing future thinkers and leaders.
“A book is a very important instrument of change and one that preserves the human spirit,” Solís said. The president shared some statistics that he called discouraging, which show that 51 percent of Costa Ricans did not open a book in the past year.
“These are extremely harsh numbers,” he said. “I believe that activities like this play a huge role in reaching out to not just authors, but a chain of people that can allow them to believe in books.”
Solís stressed the need for greater access to literature among youth and elementary students and said a book’s ability to enlighten the reader about a range of ideas, from one’s own heritage to foreign societies and beliefs, give it an unparalleled power when compared to other media. He added that image-centric platforms like television and the Internet are becoming more and more popular among children but that schools need to teach effectively with books to
allow students to think critically and form varying perspectives.
José Alfredo Chavarría, the acting minister of culture, stressed that the path towards eliminating poverty and corruption leads through the schools. “We have situated our ministry to promote and develop cultural learning within our schools, hoping that this will put our country’s future in a better position,” he said.
The 15th annual Fería Internacional del Libro officially begins today at the Antigua Aduana and continues until Aug. 31. As the festival’s country of honor, the United States will be well represented among the invited authors in attendance. Around 100 activities for U.S. writers are planned, including presentations and book signings. New York-born Jenny Smith, an award-winning reporter and environmental writer, has been chosen as the fair’s featured writer.
Today’s lineup features a book presentation on Costa Rican traditions by author Jack Donnelly, a conversation about U.S. postmodern literature, and a talk on the evolution of electronic books. A variety of stands selling national and international books, art, and other media will be set up everyday and musical performances will cap off each night of the fair.
This year’s edition of the festival is also dedicated to the memory of Alberto Cañas, the country’s famed writer, journalist, and politician who died this March. Cañas supposedly had a lifelong goal of reading up to 100 books every year.