The initial edition of Festival KM Amèrica, which runs through June 19, is to take place at Barcelona’s new Biblioteca Gabriel García Márquez, which is the city’s third-largest municipal library.
Opened 28 May in the working-class district of Sant Martí, it is part of the city’s 40-library network.
The design is by Elena Orte and Guillermo Sevillano of the Madrid-based firm Suma Arquitectura and is built primarily of wood. It takes its inspiration from Nordic design, recalling the 2018 Helsinki Central Library Oodi, if on a smaller scale. The 3,000-square-meter library (32,291 square feet) has an investment of €11.4 million and is part of an impressive plan to develop the city’s library infrastructure over more than 20 years.
The new library is dedicated to literature from Latin America, has partnered with the city’s Casa America Catalunya to run a new festival around Latin American literature called Festival KM Amèrica, which opened Thursday 16 June 16 and runs through Sunday.
The library and festival make sense in a city which, in the 1960s and ’70s, experienced what’s referred to as the “Latin American boom.” It was a time when authors including Peru’s Mario Vargas Llosa, Chile’s José Donoso, Mexicans Sergio Pitol and Carlos Fuentes, and of course Colombia’s Gabriel García Márquez lived in Barcelona, with Argentina’s Julio Cortázar making frequent visits to the city.
They all were taken under the wing of the formidable literary agent Carmen Balcells and were often edited by Carlos Barral at Seix Barral or published by other Barcelona houses such as Editorial Bruguera or Tusquets Editores. Journalist Xavi Ayén extensively documented this period in his book Aquellos años del boom: García Márquez, Vargas Llosa y el grupo de amigos que lo cambiaron todo (Those Boom Years: García Márquez, Vargas Llosa and the Group of Friends Who Changed Everything, Penguin Random House, 2019).
Fifty years later, 27.5 per cent of the population in Barcelona was born abroad, according to Gencat’s 2021 statistical analysis of the Catalan population, and a sizeable portion is from Latin America. In 2019, Lata Peinada, a specialty bookshop for Latin American literature, opened in Barcelona. A year later, a branch opened in Madrid. Lata Peinada also runs a Latin American literary festival, held in October.