The eulogizing will go on for several days here, and while we don't question the sincerity of the nation's love for the man, we don't for a second believe more than a tiny fraction of the populace have actually read him. (We say the same about the Irish and Ulysses, by the way.) So in tribute to Gabo, here's an encore presentation of a 2007 post on the reading (or, more accurately, non-reading) habits of the Queretanos.
It could be a while before some sort of cafe society takes root here in Querétaro, at least judging by the statistics buried in the appendices of the president's state of the union address.
While literacy in these parts is over 95%, it seems that people really just can't be bothered with it. According to government statistics, people in the central-western region of the country (that's us!) read just 2.3 books per year on average, the lowest in the nation. (The dilettantes down in Mexico City plow thorough an average of 5.5 a year.)
These numbers are averages, and the whole thing is probably stacked against queretanos since it doesn't count pornographic comics as "books." Drilling down a bit, we find that 51.3 percent of queretanos claim to read books - which means an astonishing 48.7 percent are perfectly comfortable telling another adult, "Books? Ha! Never read 'em!" (Of these, 31 percent do acknowledge having read a book at some point - so that's good, right? Only 36 percent of queretano adults have never read a book in their entire lives.) This probably helps explain why the Querétaro Public Library has just 60,000 volumes - about two-thirds the size of the one in Swampscott (population 14,000).
And what are Mexicans reading? Well, our mediocre local paper, a.m., breaks it down for us. For Mexican readers over the age of 55, their favorite book is (Wait, wait! Let us guess....is it the Bible?) the Bible! In the 46-55 age group, the top choice is One Hundred Years of Solitude. Among the 18-30 set, it's a three-way tie between The Da Vinci Code, The Little Prince ("Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought Jonathan Livingston Seagull!"), and something called A Desperate Cry, which we'd never heard of, but is listed under both "juvenile" and "spirituality" on Amazon, so it makes sense. The Harry Potter books, collectively, top the list for teens. People between the ages of 31 and 45 apparently don't read anything.
By the way, we're calling bullshit on the 46-55 year-olds. We tried twice to finish One Hundred Years of Solitude and failed both times - which is hardly a scientific sampling, but still leaves us highly skeptical to see the least-bookish region of the country rank it as their favorite - in between Little Prince and the Bible. This afternoon we plan to stop a dozen random 46-55 year-olds on the street, and will hand our car keys to the first one who can accurately summarize the plot.
2014 Update: No one won the car.