GUADALAJARA, 29th November, 2022 (WAM) — As part of Sharjah’s Guest of Honour programme at the 36th Guadalajara International Book Fair in Mexico, an expert panel of media professionals have explored ways to strengthen ties between Mexico and the UAE through investments in traditional and digital media.
The discussion, held under the theme ‘Media: A Link Between the UAE and Mexico’, was moderated by Zeth Arellano and hosted Raed Barqawi, Editor-in-Chief of Al Khaleej Newspaper; Abdul Hamid Ahmad, Editor-in-Chief of Gulf News Newspaper; Edward Nawotka, Co-founder of Publishers Weekly en Español; and Mónica Nepote, Director of the E-Literature Project at the Digital Culture Centre in Mexico.
Speaking about the essence of relations between countries and cities historically, Raed Barqawi said: “In the past, metropolitan cities worldwide were commercial trading centres with thriving ports. Mobility contributed to a true cultural exchange that was evident in language, music, art, and even cooking, among other forms of culture. This is what characterises the UAE today as it rose as a bustling trade centre which has paved the way for reinforcing cross-cultural communication with nations worldwide.”
Barqawi cited the power and impact of trade relations on the enhancement of relations between the UAE and Mexico, comparing the volume of trade exchange between the two countries from 2010-11 to today. He pointed out that trade was valued at USD 50 million just a decade ago, but with the growth of aviation and air traffic with daily direct flights, the value of trade exchange now exceeds USD 3 trillion as he highlighted how vibrant trade links have bolstered and developed close cultural relations between the two countries.
Citing the UAE as “the best country that represents communication opportunities with the Arab world,” the Editor-in-Chief of Al Khaleej continued: “The UAE is a union of seven emirates; each with a unique offering that attracts people from around the world. While one emirate is known for its oil, another specialises in trade or marine products, and another emirate is famed for its cultural heritage. This is why there are people from 200 nationalities who live in the UAE and offer a model of coexistence and cultural communication between world civilisations.”
For his part, Abdul Hamid Ahmad shed light on the role of media and creative industries in bringing the UAE and Mexico closer together. He pointed out that even before the start of an open skies policy between the two nations, the relationship had grown with the translations of Mexican literature. He noted that translations have played a significant role in bringing Mexican society and its cultural legacy closer to the people of the UAE.
The author of The Laughing World Order pointed out that the drama industry in the 1990s also offered Arabs a window into Mexican and Latin American cultures. He noted that Arabs grew up watching a Venezuelan series about a gypsy girl’s journey from poverty to wealth, pointing out this is repeated today through platforms like Netflix but that requires a rethink as they tend to present Mexico through the lens of crime and gangster-oriented stories.
Abdul Hamid Ahmad cited a host of Mexican authors whose books have appealed to Arab readers like Octavio Bath, Carlos Fuentes, and Juan Rulfo, and expressed his appreciation to prominent Arab translators like the late Saleh Almani who spared no efforts in bringing Spanish literature to Arabic audiences.
Abdul Hamid Ahmad called for the establishment of a UAE-Mexico Friendship Association to develop cultural relations between the two countries. He recommended launching an award for literary books translated from Arabic into Spanish and vice versa, pointing out that such practical steps can make a big difference in forging closer cultural ties.
Edward Nawotka spoke about the common characteristics that bring together two metropolitan cities as diverse as Sharjah and Guadalajara on the map of World Book Capitals. He said: “Globally, the two cities offer a platform for knowledge and the creative sectors. For instance, Sharjah organised the world’s largest book fair – the culmination of four decades of efforts during which it brought together stakeholders from around the world and this is exactly what Guadalajara has done too. The impact of such initiatives cannot be measured without highlighting small and individual stories of publishers, authors, creatives, journalists and media experts.”
“To learn more about Sharjah’s leading efforts and the impact on communication between cultures, we can address the experience of launching the Arabic and Spanish editions of the Publishers Weekly magazine. When it sought to target Arabic speakers, it headed to Sharjah that hosted the launch of the Arabic edition. Interestingly enough, the idea of launching the Spanish edition was born at the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) where we met with Mexican entities and the idea then took the form of the Mexican edition of the magazine,” he added.
For her part, Monica Nepoti discussed the influence of digital technology on broadening the prospects of communication between world civilisations. Addressing the challenges and opportunities of e-Literature, she pointed out that technology depends on the English language as it is the most widely spoken but there was also an urgent need to upload Spanish and Arabic language material to e-Literature platforms.