Queen Letizia and the Vice President and Chancellor of Colombia, Marta Lucía Ramírez, participated yesterday in the inauguration of the 80th edition of the Madrid Book Fair, in which Colombia will be the protagonist under the slogan Colombia Diversa y Vital (Colombia Diverse and Vital), all this in the midst of the controversy generated in the South American country by the alleged political bias of the Government of Bogota when selecting or discarding the guest authors.
Colombia participates this year as Guest of Honor, which is why it has deployed a pavilion at the Fair, where the Queen stopped for a few minutes to see first hand the proposal of the South American country and talk briefly with some of the Colombian representatives. “For 17 days, in El Retiro Park, visitors will be able to enjoy the great diversity of our land. Writers, filmmakers, academics and illustrators, among others, will be sharing their ideas around the plurality of a vibrant Colombia, a diverse and vital Colombia, as the slogan we have chosen to participate in the fair points out,” said Colombia’s ambassador to Spain, Luis Guillermo Plata.
The choice of Colombia as “guest of honor” of the Fair will allow to show “the progress of a nation that from 2019 commemorates 200 years of history”, according to the organizers. For that reason, Colombia will develop during the event more than 40 activities to show the cultural diversity of the country, such as a wide literary offer, conferences of outstanding Colombian authors, cultural manifestations of visual arts, film and audiovisual, gastronomy and music, in addition to activities aimed especially at children.
The selection of the 37 authors invited to the event has generated great controversy in Colombia due to the absence of some writers, an absence that many literary figures in the country, including some of those chosen, have interpreted as censorship because of their critical positions with the government of President Iván Duque, who will be making an official visit to Madrid next week. Among the absentees are literary figures such as Piedad Bonnett, Laura Restrepo, William Ospina, Héctor Abad Faciolince or Fernando Vallejo.
The controversy has been aggravated by statements made by Ambassador Luis Guillermo Plata in which he stated that the Government had decided to invite “neutral” authors, words that contributed to fuel the controversy even more because they were interpreted as a confirmation that Duque had vetoed the authors who had been more critical of him, especially after the strong protests that the country experienced and that were harshly repressed by the Police. Curiously, among the first authors to react against the ambassador’s statements were two authors invited by the Government, Melba Escobar and Margarita García Robayo, who have refused to participate in the Fair. After the controversy, the ambassador issued a statement in which he acknowledged that he had made a mistake: “I made a mistake. Unfortunately, the way I used my words distorted the meaning of what I wanted to express”.
For its part, the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs assured, to justify the invitations, that it had sought “a sample of the broad regional, cultural, gender, generational and literary diversity” and that it had taken into account criteria such as “regional diversity, generational diversity, equal participation of men and women, representation of different literary genres, diversity of audiences to which the works are addressed and incorporation of new and valuable voices that had not yet had the opportunity to be in events of such high level, among others”.