report from the front – '06 Tijuana bookfair

The mayor of Tijuana opened the 24th annual Tijuana Bookfair. Both new and used books were available at anywhere from a 10% to 50% discount from their regular prices ( a customary feature of book fairs here). I found 3 shopping bags full I had to take home today and had another bag or two put on hold for me. I was on foot and just couldn’t carry more – and tomorrow is another day.

My favorite buys this first day were La Guerra Apache en Mexico (the campaigns between Victorio & Terrazas in the 19th century), El Juego de Pelota Mixteca (a photo instruction book for a modern version of Peter Selverstone’s favorite ballgame) & Tijuana, la Tercera Nacion: Grito Creativo, Arte Contra los Muros ( a photography book on contemporary Tijuana).

It is easy to see why book fairs are so successful here. They are well supported as a part of community education by government. They have many large corporate sponsors. They have the atmosphere of real fairs with food, music, balloons, clowns and lots of fun. There is an emphasis on books as family entertainment with lots of children’s books available and other educational games & music cds. There are constant readings, signings, presentations & other events. They have great publicity with newspaper, tv & radio corporate sponsors. And they are the cheapest way to buy books with all the participating bookshops offering significant discounts. The fair is a field trip for all the schools. It is a delightful community event to promote reading.
And, I think, just as in Powell’s stores, the mixture of new and used books promote each other. I am sure many people who would never venture into a used bookstore look at books in used book booths and I, who never buys a new book, bought four (at 50% off).

Today’s main haul was cookbooks. I began by finding a wonderful 35 year old cookbook on Mexican candy making, then just kept running into exciting cookbooks. I think I have never bought 16 cookbooks in one day before. But how can one resist an entire book devoted to recipes for iguana? Or Drinks & Desserts of Puebla? Or traditional curing recipes of the Zoque of Chiapas? (a mixture of zopilote [vulture] blood & aguardiente will cure rage) Or a recipe book from New Spain in 1817? The problem is having to copy out all the damn recipes before I can sell the books.


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