The Hay Festival in Cartagena de Indias reminds us that Colombia is a country of writers. The big affluence of people to the conferences of authors and the performances of artists like Juanes or Miguel Bosé, is a proof of that. You have to book entrance with a good anticipation in order to see authors like the polemic Fernando Vallejo, in the same way you book entrance for a rock concert. The same for foreign authors like British Salman Rushdie, who is going to do his lecturer in Bogotá tomorrow.
The interests of Colombians for art and literature is not new. It has been shown in the celebration of the International Festival of Poetry of Medellín, an event for summer that invites many poets from the five continents.
The idea of a country with a high level of violence come in contrast with a public ready to appreciate the forms of art through the power of word. But it just matches with the idea that Colombia is the nation of Nobel Prize of Literature Gabriel García Márquez. But he is not the only one and his magic realism school is not the only one too. Besides him, other names write the history and identity of the Colombians, like Alvaro Mutis, Fernando Vallejo, Andrés Caicedo, Fernando González Ochoa, among others.
If journalism in Colombia can be seen in many occasions in a trap of fear, inside the games of ideologies and parties, under the influence of powerful forces inside the Colombian society, literature is the space of freedom and the guarantee of history. Who can forget the Massacre of the Banana Plantations in 1928 that involved the Fruit Company, when it has been recorder forever in the pages of Hundred Years of Solitude?
It is then the explanation of the success of events like the Hay Festival and surely the guest authors from the five continents will notice something special in those Colombians they are meeting: one thing is that many of them are young people.
Literature in Colombia is more important than we can imagine. It has a similitude with the Colombian telenovelas in the way that they are spaces of cultural expressions of our realities, expectancies and feelings. We can predict also that in this century, the Colombian cinema will get its relevance in the Latin American context under this same principle that rules for literature.
The Latin American societies and governments should promote literature and art as a way of expression and development of our people. Things like the Hay Festival is an example of how literature can meet our people around peace and hopes.