The local Latino literary world once again burst into life as Léa LA, the Los Angeles Spanish-Language Book Fair and Literary Festival, hosted its annual event at the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes. From September 14 to 17, LA became a dynamic epicenter celebrating the wealth of Spanish literature and culture. 

Since its inception in 2011, Léa LA has stood as a beacon for those who treasure the power of words, stories and the Spanish language.

“LéaLA 2023’s purpose is to promote reading and books in Spanish, as well as to recognize the culture and customs of the Latin community in the U.S., a population that is increasingly becoming more important at a cultural, political and economic level,” as stated on the festival’s official website

The event was founded by Marisol Schulz Manaut, an editor, cultural journalist and expert in the literary and editorial worlds. She has been recognized by Forbes magazine as one of the most influential women in Mexico and a visionary in the world of literature. 

Courtesy of Léa LA, Photo by Josué Nando. La Plaza de Cultura y Arte hosted the Léa LA festival.

This event has grown to become a cornerstone for the promotion of Spanish literature and culture in the United States. “The inspiration came from Raul Padilla (a Mexican actor); it was his idea that in some way I could work on the project,” Manaut told CALÓ NEWS. “Everything we do is free; no activity is charged for. To me, this seems fundamental.”    

The organizers of Léa LA say that they pride themselves on the program’s diverse lineup of authors, from established literary giants to emerging voices. This year, the festival proudly hosts Emiliano Monge, whose work, such as “Justo antes del final” and “El cieloárido,” transcends borders and enchants readers with its poetic exploration of the human experience. Brenda Navarro, another celebrated author and writer of “Casas vacias,” invites us to explore her narratives, which often touch on themes of identity and belonging. Both authors are based in Mexico and dive into different literary genres, like fiction and nonfiction. 

“I have a book about immigration; I have a book about the cycles of violence in my country in the 20th century; I have a book about machismo, or how it manifests in the Mexican family. [I am] always looking for a way to tell these stories,” Monge said. 

Léa LA offered attendees a unique opportunity to embark on a literary journey that spans genres, styles and perspectives. The festival featured a myriad of panels, discussions, and workshops, each offering a different facet of the Spanish literary world. Whether your heart belongs to poetry, fiction or nonfiction, Léa LA has something for every book lover.

From its early days at the Los Angeles Convention Center to recent editions at the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, the festival has consistently drawn enthusiastic crowds eager to explore the world of Spanish-language literature. With over 300 authors and writers, Léa LA gathers nearly 85,000 people of all ages according to PR NewsWire.

“To see how the stories that one imagined come to life again and how they transform and improve in the minds of readers, that’s what I love most about fairs,” said founder Brenda Navarro when asked what her favorite thing was about Léa LA and other Spanish literary festivals. 

Navarro added that she believes Léa LA is more than just a literary event; it’s a celebration of culture, a bridge between languages, and a testament to the enduring power of storytelling. 

Courtesy of Léa LA, Photo by Josué Nando. La Plaza de Cultura y Arte hosted the Léa LA festival.

In an increasingly interconnected world, events like Léa LA play a vital role in promoting cross-cultural understanding and fostering a love for literature in multiple languages. The festival showcases the diversity of the Spanish-speaking world, highlighting voices from Latin America, Spain, and the Hispanic diaspora, and underscoring the shared heritage of the Spanish language. 

“The power I have is the power to change people through reading, the power to have gradually reached certain people who did not read and who now read and somehow understand the importance of reading. That’s what I’m passionate about,” Monge said about the festival’s legacy. 

As Léa LA 2023 draws near, an air of excitement envelops literature enthusiasts, authors, and cultural aficionados alike. This event, born from a love for literature, has evolved into a testament to the enduring power of the written word. It’s an invitation to explore new worlds, embrace different perspectives, and celebrate the richness of the Spanish language and culture.

“I would also like Léa LA to gain recognition, if not internationally, at least in the United States,” Manut said, “and for more people in Los Angeles to attend, or in Southern California. It’s an effort to organize a festival like this. What we want is for the public to accept it and attend, especially because it’s free.” 

Courtesy of Léa LA, Photo by Josué Nando. Children are able to draw and share their creativity throughout the event.

This literary adventure was held to help ignite a personal passion for participants related to books and the Spanish language, so make sure you mark those calendars and stay tuned for next year’s event. The event was completely cost-free for attendees and offered a variety of workshops, dialogues and presentations from speakers on a variety of subjects. For more information on this and future events, visit their website or follow them on Instagram to stay up to date. 

Kate Michel is a senior studying journalism and public relations at Cal State Long Beach.