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Cuban International Book Fair helps celebrate Canada 150

In celebration of our 150th anniversary of Confederation, Canada was invited to be the guest country of honour at this year’s Cuban international book fair.

Drawn by Canadian story tellers such as Margaret Atwood, Giller Prize winner Madeleine Thien, Quebec author, Luc Chartrand and many others, 400,000 participants attended the Havana International Book Fair in Cuba from February 9 to 19. In celebration of our 150th anniversary of Confederation, Canada was invited to be the guest country of honour at this year’s event.

During the ten-day Book Fair, 30 Canadian authors, 18 book publishers, and two dozen artists and distinguished guests were invited to promote their work. At the same time, they gave a sense of some of the values Canadians hold dear.

Canada’s book fair pavilion was run by The Embassy of Canada to Cuba in Havana, in partnership with Canadian Heritage, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Government of Quebec, the National Film Board of Canada and Livres Canada Books. Canadian company, Sherritt, also supported the event.   

In addition to English and French offerings, books that have been translated into Spanish, were featured. This included such literary works as author Maya Ombasic’s novel, Primer día después de Babel (First day after Babel) and Aline Apostolka’s book, Un verano de amor y de cenizas (A summer of love and ashes).

“The Book Fair showcased Canada’s excellence. Through the arts, literature, music, design, we proudly demonstrated aspects of what makes Canada so remarkable. This cultural exchange helps to deepen our relationship and our understanding of one another, building on a long friendship between our countries,” said Ambassador Patrick Parisot.

Celebrating Canada Cuba ties

Canada and Cuba have close ties. This year marks the 72nd anniversary of Canada-Cuba diplomatic relations. Canadians also accounts for 40% of Cuba’s tourists each year.

To highlight Canada-Cuba work together, a photo exhibit featured agriculture and educational projects in the country.

Canadian entertainers

The Jerry Cans, a musical group from Iqaluit, Nunavut played in several venues throughout the 10-day Fair. They sang in Inuktitut, a mix of throat singing and high energy alt-country music.

Caillou, a well-known Canadian animated character, dropped by the event to the delight of young visitors. And as part of the Quebec programming, a cirque artist from Quebec’s “Les 7 doigts de la main” company performed to an enthusiastic outdoor crowd who watched him defy gravity in a body-twisting performance.

Special events

The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker of the Senate, presided over the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the opening of the Canadian pavilion, along with His Excellency Abel Prieto, Cuba’s Minister of Culture.

Christine St-Pierre, Quebec’s Minister of International Relations and La Francophonie, led a delegation of Quebec artists, authors and publishers, which included presentationsand the opening of an exhibit, the History of Comics and Graphic Novels in Quebec.

Event attendees were invited to hear panelists speak about different aspects of Canadian life Subjects included  Indigenous youth literature, the Caribbean and Cuban diaspora in Canada, cooking and food culture in Canada, the life and people of Quebec and Canadian studies.

The National Film Board of Canada presented a series of animated short films. While there, they secured a license with Cuban state television to broadcast nine Canadian films. This is the first television licence between the National Film Board of Canada and a Cuban broadcaster. The nine NFB films—a selection of documentaries, animated short films, and one drama—will be broadcast in Spanish.

Cubans welcome Canadian visitors

In addition to the literary and cultural special events held, Cubans were excited to have the chance to purchase Canadian books. Priced for the local market, Cubans, from all walks of life, lined up to buy Canadian works in French, English and Spanish. For Canadian authors, they were invited to showcase Canada and celebrate its 150 anniversary. They were pleased to have the opportunity to promote their books in a Latin American market.

To see more photos on this event, please visit the Storify Havana International Book Fair page.

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