Friday, October 3, 2014

Hay in Xalapa

Off to Xalapa for the Hay Festival. It's a 4 hour bus ride east from the capital, over hills and plains, almost to the Gulf of Mexico, but not quite. The bus is amazing, a drink as you board, business-class seats with personalised video screens, very comfortable. The curtains are drawn and most people just sleep or watch movies, hermetically sealed for the duration. But I peak out and see cacti, a big sky and the extinct volcano of Cofre de Perote (4,280 - almost as high as the Mattherhorn). 
Xalapa itself is theoretically a big city (pop. 380,000) but feels small. It has a well-known university, an important Museum of Anthropology (second only to the capital's) and Mexico's oldest symphony orchestra. 
One of the latest of the Hay franchises (there are around ten in off-the-beaten-path places around the world), this is its fourth year here. We've supported a few British writers: dramatist & novelist Nell Leyshon (a new find for me, currently writing a play about, of all things, the history of English folk music), poet SJ Fowler (charming chap), journalist Bee Rowlatt (whom somehow I didn't actually get to meet!) and guest of honour Salman Rushdie (who arrived from New York in time for a dinner we co-hosted). Never met him before. Was expecting to be overpowered by his presence, but he was charming and self-effacing, though of course with some great stories.


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