About the Collection
The Cartonera publishing phenomenon began in Buenos Aires in 2003 and was spearheaded by writers and artists interested in reconfiguring the conditions in which literary art is produced and consumed. They came up with a progressive new publishing model that challenges and contests the neo-liberal political and economic hegemony. This initial enterprise called Eloísa Cartonera has not only changed the publishing scene in Argentina but also the scene across Latin America by functioning as a model and an inspiration for the development of the following Cartonera publishing projects in Latin America.
- Animita Cartonera, Santiago, Chile
- Dulcineia Catadora, Sao Paulo, Brazil
- Felicita Cartonera, Paraguay
- La Cartonera, Cuernavaca, Mexico
- Mandragora Cartonera, Cochabamba, Bolivia
- Matapalo Cartonera, Riobamba, Ecuador
- Mburukujarami Kartonera, Paraguay
- Santa Muerte Cartonera, Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico
- Sarita Cartonera, Lima, Peru
- Yerba Mala Cartonera, El Alto, Bolivia
- Yiyi Jambo, Asuncion, Paraguay
The success these Cartonera projects serves as proof that there is an alternative to predatory forms of globalization. All of the Cartonera books are hand-made from recycled cardboard collected off the streets by cartoneros, or garbage pickers, who then sell the cardboard they collect to the Cartonera publishers and in some cases work on the production process of the actual books themselves.
The cardboard covers are hand painted and assembled in a process that reconfigures the relation of the worker to his work by sidestepping exploitation of the worker and maintaining the unique artistic qualities of each individual cover produced. This social, economic, and literary practice is about making a difference in the lives of impoverished and unemployed casualties of the neo-liberal turn in Latin America, mainly the destitute cardboard collectors, called cartoneros. It also supports the democratization of the book and access to literature for everyone, everywhere.
By using cardboard covers, the production costs and the price the books are sold for decrease, thus making them more accessible to a market previously ignored by the traditional publishing paradigm. The accessibility of Cartonera books allows issues of literacy in countries with very low literacy rates to be addressed and changed. Several of the Cartonera projects have also established social and educational elements to their program and are using the creation of the Cartonera books to redefine the relationship between “the book” and the public.
With a growing collection of over 250 volumes, UW-Madison’s Ibero-American collection holds one of the largest and most comprehensive Cartonera collections in the U.S. This collection is a work in progress, and new titles and resources are added periodically.