Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Books and Churros

Exclusive reports from Crime Fiction's international big-bash by our roving reporter.

3rd day - Sunday, June 13

I would like to dedicate this post to the tents of La Semana Negra, to the smell of oily churros, waffles, French fries and sandwiches that populate the air.

I’d heard that at La Semana Negra there was more than books, writers and conferences, but to see it with my own eyes, is an incredible experience. There are tents full of horror books, next to a sandwich and hamburgers joint. Needless to say, a churro tent is located between a detective fiction book tent and another one of fantasy genre.

The event this year is held at Poniente Beach in four tents where most of the film screenings, conferences and other events take place. Your shoes get full of sand everywhere you go, but if it rains, as it did last Friday, what you step in is mud. Nothing to complain about though; you’ll still enjoy a great conference about new book releases or a screening of the 1950’s classic vampire movies of “El Vampiro Mexicano” with an introduction by the vampire himself, the great Mexican actor, Germán Robles. [more on that tomorrow]

The fair is set up as a long line of tents facing the sea. It starts everyday at five o’clock and in a few hours all the tents are lighted. Tons people walk around, eating, talking, and sporting La Semana Negra hats--a black, detective hat given free as a pretty keepsake to people who attend.

There are also tents set up as bars, nightclubs and restaurants. At night, these places are full of people listening either to a live rock band or dancing to the sounds of techno or house. Paco Ignacio Taibo, II proudly said that this year “there are as many bars as bookstores.” When he said this, you could see his gray-haired mustache became a big smile.

La Semana Negra also contains a big concert stage where everyday at 10:30 there are concerts, and spectators comfortably sit on the sand, drink beer, sidra, or their drink of choice and enjoy the music.

The tent bookstores close at 12pm, so it is not rare to see people with bags full of books, tired of carrying them around, having a beer while reading a book they just purchased. I shed a tear every time I see someone with a book by Dashiell Hammett in one hand and chocolate churro on the other. Plain and simple paradise.

This picturesque scenery and the great variety of tents is something Paco Ignacio Taibo II tries to convey every year. In the inauguration ceremony he made a note of that (roughly translated): “this is a celebration for the masses, for the great majority”. And this is entirely true.

You don’t only see intellectuals, professors and other nerds walking around the fair. There are all sorts of people--from the abuelito who can barely read anymore because his sight is not as good as before, to the young guy who prefers to wait until the movie comes out instead of reading the book--who come to La Semana Negra just to have a good time and maybe, after looking at so many books, even buy one.

Great books, food, drinks, and people, just some of the many things this event brings to the city of Gijón and to the people who come and visit during this amazing week.

Besos desde Gijón!

Thania Muñoz


Manuel Ramos said...

Thania - you are making me get teary-eyed. You have firmly captured the spirit and feel of Semana Negra and brought back fond memories of the one time I attended (1995). Thank you - give my best to Rolando and Paco.

Anonymous said...

Thania-it seems that you are really enjoying your time over in Gijon. Your coverage of the event is very informative. It seems that everyone there is the nonpretentious type. It is good to know that people from all walks of life are able to enjoy the Semana Negra. Keep up the good work and have a beer for me!