The Feria del Libro in Guadalajara, which finishes on Sunday the 7th, is the largest book fair in Latin America. When you walk through the floor of the convention center, the enormous quantity of books being sold is overwhelming. Perusing what is on offer makes it eminently clear that the lion's share of the publishing business is selling self-help and children's books. Literature is more or less a footnote in the panorama.
Fetching mariachis as well as abundant free cocktails make the fair a little easier to swallow.
The above photo was taken at a press conference announding the Aura Estrada Prize, about which I will write more at a later post. I didn't catch his name at first, but novelist Francisco Goldman later told me that the old guy sitting next to him is called Gabriel García Márquez.
For me, the book fair is really an excuse to visit my favorite haunts in Guadalajara. Among them is a piano bar called El Gato Verde, on Calle Robles Gil #137. The main entertainment comes from Mari Tere, pictured behind the bar, who has sometimes doubled as a waitress. Once inside you may feel you have inadvertently wandered into a David Lynch movie.
Then there is Mariscos El Negro, in the Santa Teresita neighborhood, on the corner of Francisco Zarco and Ignacio Ramirez, one of the best seafood restaurants in all of Mexico. All of the cold and raw-bar offerings are amazing, as are the shrimp tacos and the pescado zarandeado, a Guadalajara specialty of spice-rubbed fish.
I could, um, hardly help noticing one of my fellow diners down the aisle. She was so conspicuous that it was only after I downloaded the photo that I realized there had been a baby at her side. Somehow I imagine him many years from now talking to a psychiatrist about his obsession with his mother's behind.
When in Guadalajara I always stop by Bar Saúl, a cantina on Calle Degollado in a dubious corner of the Centro Histórico. The front room is tiny, and in the back there are photos of movie stars, both Mexican and gringo. In this photo, New York editor Ethan Nosowsky, of Graywolf Press, is feeling no pain after half of his first tequila of the hour. He was drinking Centinela Reposado.
Aside from Mariscos El Negro, the other culinary achievement of Guadalajara is the torta ahogada (drowned sandwich), chopped pork in a hard roll "drowned" in tomato sauce, and then dressed with a dangerous hot sauce spiked with onions. If you like, you can also add shredded lettuce, refried beans and other condiments. There are many places to get a good torta ahogada in the city but some tapatios (as people from Guadalajara are known) say the best are to be had at Tortas Las Famosas, which has many branches around the city. The mother ship, in an industrial area at Avenida Patria No. 2546, has a wonderful oasis-at-the-end-of-civilization feel.