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Ana Omana, author and creative director for the LABF. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.
Ana Omana, author and creative director for the LABF. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

The Venezuelan author advocating for more unity and representation in literature

Ana Omana, one of the organizers and creative director for the Latin American Book Fair is a big advocate for creating a community for Latin American writers.

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Ana Omana is a Venezuelan published writer and author of children’s books. 

In 2019, she was looking for a place to showcase her books, and came to the realization that Philadelphia didn’t have any platform for Latin American authors like herself to do so on a grand scale. 

From there, she started thinking about steps she could take to create that platform.

After speaking with several community members, she found that she was not the only Latina writer who wanted to do the same thing.

She connected with Edgar Ramirez, founder and host of Philatinos Radio, who wanted to find a way to inspire Latinos in Philadelphia to read and gain access to Spanish language books. 

At first, Ramirez suggested she display some of her books in and around the radio station. But Omana wanted something bigger, more visible and prominent.

She later connected with Leity Rodríguez-Largo, executive director of Acción Colombia, who wanted a space to discuss books written by Latino authors, and particularly highlight the work of Gabriel García Márquez. 

The three put their brains together with the goal of finding a way to bring Latin American authors and writers together to showcase their own and each other’s work.

“We didn’t have any money and we didn’t have any resources,” said Omana in an interview with AL DIA. 

What they did have, however, was determination.

Shortly thereafter, Omana reached out to City Council, met with Councilman At-Large David Oh, put together a proposal and presented it, with Councilman Oh putting his full support behind it.

Within a matter of days, an idea evolved into something much bigger. 

In October 2019, the “Latin American Book Fair” officially came to fruition, taking place at the City Hall Courtyard. It was the first time Philadelphia ever hosted such an event, highlighting and promoting Latin American authors. 

Omana, the creative director for the annual event, said the team managed to collect more than 30 authors for the inaugural Latin American Book Fair.

Fast forward to this year, the 4th annual Latin American Book Fair this year saw the event grow exponentially, with more authors and organizations reaching out, wanting to be a part of this annual event. 

This year, about 50 authors from across the Latin American diaspora participated in the book fair, connecting authors, illustrators, writers, designers, book lovers and community members from all walks of life to one single space.

“We wanted that,” said Omana. “We wanted to rescue our culture and our language, so our kids can learn from us, where we come from, and really discover Latin America from books.” 

A Determined Author

On a more personal note, Omana decided to become an author of children’s books after becoming a mother in 2017. 

She would often read to her baby, even before he was born. It was her way to connect with her baby. 

However, she came to realize there were so few Spanish-language children’s books that served as the equivalent of American children’s books. 

“I wanted something more authentic,” said Omana. 

She wanted a book that was both fun for children to read and also educational about her native Venezuela and Latin America.

Unable to find one, Omana published her own book, “La Flor Amarilla,” which can be found on Amazon

After the book was published, it started to get noticed and became available in Latin America, as well.  

This experience gave Omana a newfound confidence that rather than trying to find the pieces of the literature that fit with the themes she wanted, she could instead become the creator of such books. 

This mindset was also what helped her publish another one of her books, “Aventuras en el Amazonas,” about two children who travel through the Amazon in Venezuela, and learn about a number of different places and environments throughout. 

So far, Omana has written a total of nine books, with goals of completing a new series, as well as a novel, in the next year or two.  

To her, writing and books are incredibly powerful in conveying a message, and she uses her books as a way to convey the message that it is fun to be creative and to learn. 

Establishing More Opportunities

While the annual Latin American Book Fair has been a crucial endeavor in bringing more visibility to Latin American authors, writers, and overall literature, it is just one single step.

Omana has played a key role in the recent resolution passed by Philadelphia City Council, declaring September 23 as Latin American Book Day each year.

“That way, it gives us power as a community to have this event every year regardless of who is in City Council,” said Omana. 

With a mind always brimming with creative and new ideas, Omana also wants to create another space where writers, authors, editors and creators — as well those aspiring to become one — can come together to talk about important topics, such as the writing process, how to polish ideas into concrete items and many more.

Through this initiative, ideas and feedback can be shared amongst each other with the goal of strengthening the community of writers of Latin American descent throughout Philadelphia.

“We want to continue doing this,” said Omana. “We don’t want to do just one event every year. We really want to continue forming this to become even bigger.”

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