The Guadalajara International Book Fair, known as the FIL and considered the most important event of its kind in the Spanish-speaking world, kicked off Saturday with a special dedication to the late Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes.

Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012), who died suddenly on May 15 at age 83, was a "great friend" of the FIL, the organization's president, Raul Padilla, said.

He added that the Mexican author, winner of Spain's Cervantes Prize in 1987, was a person convinced that "culture will save Mexico" and was committed to "giving power to the voice of Latin America's splendid young minds."

The fair opened with the conspicuous absence of Peruvian writer Alfredo Bryce Echenique, winner of this year's FIL Prize for Latin American Literature in Romance Languages, to whom the award had already been presented.

The decision was taken following a controversy about whether the Peruvian author deserved a literary prize amid accusations of plagiarism dating back several years.

Twelve Mexican academics had published an open letter protesting the decision to award the prize to Bryce.

In the end the award jury stuck to its choice, which is not open to appeal, but the civil association in charge of the FIL Prize decided to deliver it to the author's home in Lima.

A total of more than 320,000 different book titles will be on display at FIL 2012, most of them from Spanish-speaking countries, with "close to 700,000" people expected to attend, Padilla said.

The 26th edicion of the FIL began on Saturday and will close on Dec. 2. EFE