December 14, 2016
“We live in the era that will be characterized by the death of bees and the rebirth of fascism.”
by Julia Fleischaker
The 36th International Book Fair Oaxaca took place last month in Mexico, and much like with their northern neighbors, the conversation was dominated by Donald Trump. What he’s done, what he’ll do, and how we’ll react. As David Shook reports in The Guardian, many of the Latin American authors in attendance reached back to personal experiences to understand the moment.
Many of the festival’s participants have firsthand experience of the censorship imposed by authoritarian regimes, and felt that Trump’s treatment of journalists and detractors, especially his threats to “open up” libel law, was a bad omen for what could come. The Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, who was the festival’s guest of honor, recounted his 21-day imprisonment and torture in the cargo bay of a ship at the beginning of the Pinochet dictatorship, for being considered a potential threat because of his intellectual engagement as a university student.
Several writers expressed concern at the recent spate of post-election violence toward minorities. For Margo Glantz, 86, the news recalled vivid childhood memories of the attempted lynching of her father, a Jewish immigrant to Mexico, by Mexican fascists in 1939. “We live in the era that will be characterized by the death of bees and the rebirth of fascism,” she read.
JM Servin, who wrote about his own immigrant experience in For the Love of the Dollar, said that “Trump’s victory is a blow to the arrogance of those who think that democracy is a virgin who could never lay eyes on a brute.” But he’s ultimately unpersuaded that Trump will be worse for immigrants than earlier administrations. “Trump will just wind up reminding them that they’re alone. As long as it doesn’t occur to him to suspend the Super Bowl and shut down Disney World, the world will continue functioning as normal.”
In his opening remarks, festival organizer Guillermo Quijas spoke of the transformational power of books and literature.
“On the winding path that we have traveled as humanity, we know that we are here because we have learned to intermingle, migrate, and adapt. We will continue to stake that the book is the best and most refined artifact of memory that mankind had ever created.”
Victor Terán, an activist and poet, perhaps put it best when contemplating what we do now:
“The voters picked an insensitive machista and racist, a madman, an egoist who at any moment can press the button and say, to hell with everyone. Should we wait for catastrophe to strike or should we start organizing and mobilize ourselves to defend the little we have left?”
Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.