The biggest Spanish-langage book fair in the Midwest runs this weekend

September 1, 2011

This afternoon, the Feria del Libro de Girón Books caps off the city’s book fair season; it runs through Monday. Call it the Girón Books Book Fair in English instead, it’s the biggest Spanish-language book gathering in the Midwest, with about 30,000 people expected for the dozens of readings, book signings and other events.

Among the biggies is a signing by Cuatemoc Cárdenas, the former three-time presidential candidate, who’ll be presenting his memoir, Sobre mis pasos/In my steps Friday at 2 p.m. The fair takes place at Sam’s Club parking lot in Cicero, at the corner of 26th Street and Cicero Avenue.

The emphasis his year, especially in the readings, seems to be on non-fiction, but Benjamin Anaya González, the fair's organizer, says, “I think the Latino community reads plenty of fiction but general interest topics, like politics, drug trafficking, self-help and general non-fiction has really picked up interest. Books can go deeper, document better than the news media.” This year is particularly important to the fair because, besides celebrating its 25th anniversary, the event marks a comeback.

“We couldn’t do the fair last year, not this one or the Mexican and Latino book fair, because we couldn’t find sponsors for anything but the Mexican bicentennial,” says González, who's involved with both events.

The original idea for the fair came from Mark Zimmerman, then a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Juan Manuel Girón (the bookstore owner) and the painter José González. It began slowly, working right out of Girón Books’ modest Pilsen storefront.

“Twenty-five years later, this is an annual celebration,” says Benjamin Anaya González, “and we work with other businesses that make these literary celebrations possible, so that we can present Spanish-speaking readers, and those interested in Spanish-language books, this massive array of books.”