Trade Commissioner Spotlight – Ana Maria Bedoya @ the Embassy of Canada to Colombia

Trade Commissioner Spotlight – Ana Maria Bedoya @ the Embassy of Canada to Colombia

By Gabrielle Etcheverry Date: March 15, 2024

Trade Commissioner Spotlight – Ana María Bedoya @ the Embassy of Canada to Colombia

Colombia is Latin America’s fourth-largest economy and Canada’s fifth-largest bilateral trading partner in the region. Last year marked 70 years of bilateral relations between Canada and Colombia. The country boasts an exciting book market that is growing in importance and size in the larger Latin American/Spanish-language market.

Later this month, Livres Canada Books is returning to Colombia for the Feria internacional del libro de Bogotá (FILBo) [Bogota international book fair] with the support of the Embassy of Canada to Colombia. Our presence in Bogota builds on our 2023 Mentoring-Coaching program on Colombia and our 2017 Scouting Mission to Colombia, among many other market activities in the intervening years. Usually scheduled for late April and early May to dovetail with the Buenos Aires International Book Fair, FILBo takes place over a period of two weeks and is a mixed public and professional book fair combining literary and cultural events at the main fair venue as well as around the capital city and other parts of the country.

Among our key partners in the Colombian book market are the Embassy of Canada to Colombia and the Trade Commissioner Service, which helps Canadian businesses develop abroad by connecting them with a network of trade commissioners in over 160 cities worldwide, international business opportunities, and funding and support programs.

Ahead of our return to FILBo, we sat down with the Embassy’s Creative Industries Trade Commissioner, Ana María Bedoya, to ask her about her role at the Embassy, the state of the Colombian book market, and how Canadian publishers can work with the Trade Commissioner Service to help them make inroads or grow their existing business in this significant Latin American market.

1.     Who are you and what do you do?

I am Ana María Bedoya, a graduate in Government and International Relations. I have been working in international business and international cooperation for more than five years. I speak four languages (English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish) and this is the first time working in the Cultural and Creative Industries portfolio.

2.     Describe the trade commissioner services at the Embassy of Canada to Colombia in a few words.

It is a very vibrant portfolio composed of seven subsectors: publishing, audiovisual, music, performing arts, interactive digital media, visual & applied arts, and museums & heritage. The sector became active in 2019, when the former Colombian president prioritized the cultural and creative economy as a driver for the country’s development. We seek to support and facilitate the internationalization of Canadian creative companies that are prepared to enter international markets and that are interested in the Colombian market.

3.     When did you begin working at the Embassy and how has your role changed since then?

I have been part of the Embassy for almost five years. I joined the Immigration section in 2019. Then, when the pandemic started, I moved to the International Development team and have been part of the Trade Commissioner Service since June 2023. Each section is very different, so it has been a rewarding experience, and my role has never stayed the same.

4.     What cultural industry do you engage with the most through the Embassy? 

Canada is a well-known partner in the audiovisual sector in Colombia, but industries such as music, performing arts, and publishing are also relevant. The Bogota Book Fair has been a key event to support in partnership with Livres Canada Books over the years. Additionally, we have also seen a growing interest in immersive and interactive experiences.

5.     What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in this role? OR What is the biggest project you have worked on in this role?

As my first year in this position, the biggest challenge and project will be to continue positioning Canada as a partner of choice for the sector. Therefore, it is also a great opportunity to showcase the cultural diversity and innovative potential of Canada. Canada and Colombia share an incredible cultural diversity; thus, it’s a market whose interest for Canadian content is expanding.

6.     How important is the cultural sector in Colombia and what role do books play in this sector?

The cultural and creative industry represents the 3% of Colombia’s GDP and it is essential to understand Colombian culture for doing business here. As cities grow and income rises, the interest in culture has also increased in response to a middle class that demands more options for travel and leisure.

Writers such as Gabriel García Márquez, Candelario Obeso, and Rafael Pombo are referents of the literary tradition in Colombia. Events like the Bogota International Book Fair, the Hay Festival, and other regional book fairs take place all year long in the country, bringing together writers, artists, journalists, poets, musicians, and creators from all corners of the world to meet with an audience eager for literature.

There are more than 1,600 libraries (1,550 public) and over 480 bookstores spread throughout the country, making Colombia the third South American nation with the largest number of reading spaces.

7.     What is the most important thing for Canadian publishers to keep in mind when working in Colombia’s book market? How should they tailor their marketing strategies to this market?

Canadian publishers should keep in mind that establishing long-term relationships is valuable for Colombian companies and that takes time. It is important to maintain constant communication, to stay engaged, and be prepared for delays. It is a good asset to be able to communicate in Spanish.

Colombia has a very professional and diverse publishing sector, but it is also under continuous growth and development. Thus, engaging with international stakeholders can sometimes be challenging for mid and small-size publishing houses. 

8.     Looking ahead, can you identify a significant opportunity for publishers looking to establish business relations and export their books to this market? What is a significant challenge they might also face?

Canada is a reference country for Colombians which opens many doors to cultural exchange and therefore to the publishing industry. I would like to encourage Canadian publishers to further explore the Colombian market, as there are not only distribution and translation opportunities, but also co-publishing opportunities.

One challenge to be faced is that the readership in English and/or French is not usually very high. Thus, local publishers are always looking for international funds to translate works into Spanish.