HAY Festival is a vibrant celebration of literature from all around the globe, bringing together some of the most prolific writers of our time. We spoke with HAY’s International Director, Cristina Fuentes La Roche (OBE), for some insight into the history of HAY and literature in Latin America.
You’ve set up HAY festivals across the globe, including in Querétaro in Mexico, Arequipa in Peru, and Cartagena, Jericó, and Medellín in Colombia. Could you tell us a bit about why you chose these cities?
We look for places with a rich cultural history to be included in our programs. Places that are not capital cities, but have a vibrant city center to allow people to move around easily so the city itself becomes the festival venue. The model for our festivals is to give back to the places where we work, aiming to contribute to dynamising the local cultural scene and creating exchanges with other cities and cultures.
Can you tell us about some of the exciting writers and artists who have attended, past and present?
The list is so long, and every single one of the people that have attended has a story to tell. In recent years, people like Nobel Prize winner, Maria Ressa, with her understanding of the world of communications and social media, together with a strong sense of justice, allow for an exceptional example of what individuals can do for their countries. There’s also the filmmaker Jitomakury and the activist Ñek+na Zafiango from the Uitoto community of the Colombian Amazon, who told us about the genocide connected to the rubber industry in their country, as well as amazing writers like César Aira, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jonathan Franzen, and J.M. Coetzee. We also can’t forget actors and musicians like Tenoch Huerta (México) and Patty Smith (United States).
Are there any new HAY destinations in the pipeline?
We are exploring doing more events in the United States, after our ongoing collaboration with the bookshop, The Wild Detectives, in Dallas.
How well are Latin American writers and artists represented in HAY Wales?
We are always establishing links between our festivals, so Latin American writers are always featured in the Wales program. This year, for example, we have the amazing Colombian author Pilar Quintana and the Mexican Brenda Navarro attending.
Can you tell us about some of your favourite Latin American destinations that have a strong connection to literature?
In Colombia, you can visit Aracataca, a magical (and very small) village, where Gabriel García Márquez was born. In Mexico, the whole state of Colima was the inspiration for Comala, the fictional ghost town from Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Paramo.
Do you have any favourite Latin American bookstores and literary cafes?
La Libre and El Péndulo (the Colonia Roma one) in Mexico City, El Lector in Arequipa and El Virrey in Lima (Perú), and Lerner in Bogotá (Colombia).
What are your top three book recommendations for anyone travelling to Latin America?
So many! But here are some ideas: Conversación en la Catedral by Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru), The River of Dreams by Wade Davies about the Magdalena River in Colombia and its history, and any of the short stories by Argentinian Mariana Enriquez in Things Saved From the Fire.
To learn more about Hay and embark on a literary adventure of your own, read about our small group trip to the Hay Festival in Cartagena de Indias here. You’ll attend talks, enjoy exclusive access to events, and immerse yourself in the tropical landscapes of Colombia.