See also (Versión en Español)
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. The initial group 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 over ninety cartonera publishing projects in Latin America, Europe, and Africa.
Cartoneras or cartonera publishers are small independent publishing houses created on a not-for-profit basis. In some cases these denominate themselves as collectives, cooperatives or social sculpture projects. Their books are hand-made from recycled cardboard (therefore the name “cartonera”) collected off the streets, in some cases, by cartoneros, or garbage pickers, who then sell the cardboard they collect to the cartoneras. Some of these publishers involve the garbage pickers on the production process of the actual books themselves side by side with the writers, editors, and the publishers.
The cardboard covers are hand painted and assembled in a process that reconfigures the relation between author, publisher, worker and readers. This social, economic, and literary practice aids in the democratization of the book and access to literature for everyone, everywhere.
By using recycled cardboard, working collectively, and offering their books on the streets or in outdoor markets, cartoneras have decreased production and distribution costs. As a consequence, they can sell their books for at least a third of the price of a conventional book, thus making them more accessible to a public previously ignored by the traditional publishing industry. 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 1,000 volumes representing over 55 different cartonera publishers, 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.
The Publishers represented in this collection are located in over 19 countries across the Americas, Europe, and Africa:
- Argentina (Cieneguita Cartonera, Editorial Retazos, Eloísa Cartonera, Ñaisandy Cartonera, Textos de Cartón)
- Bolivia (Yerba Mala Cartonera, Rostro Asado Cartonera, Yerba Mala Cartonera)
- Brazil (Dulcinéia Cartonera, Estação Catadora, Katarina Kartonera, Sereia Ca(n)tadora, Severina Catadora)
- Chile (Animita Cartonera, Canita Cartonera, Helecho de Cartonera, Olga Cartonera, Opalina Cartonera)
- Colombia (Amapola Cartonera, Cartongrafías, Delahogado Elsombrero Cartonera, Patasola Cartonera)
- Costa Rica (Cartonera Tica)
- El Salvador (La Cabuda Cartonera, Pirata Cartonera)
- Ecuador (Dadaif Cartonera, Matapalo Cartonera)
- France (Babel Cartonnière, Cephisa Cartonera, La Guêpe Cartonnière, La Marge Atelier d’Edition Participatif)
- Italy (FernAnda Pappetrice)
- Mexico (Cartonera La Cecilia, Cohuiná Cartonera, Cuxtitali Cartonera, Kodama Cartonera, La Cartonera, La Ratona Cartonera, La Rueda Cartonera, Regia Cartonera, Santa Muerte Cartonera)
- Mozambique (Kutsemba Cartão)
- Panama (Pelo Malo Cartonera)
- Paraguay (Felicita Cartonera, Mamacha Kartonera, MBurukujarami Kartonéra, Yiyi Jambó Cartonera)
- Peru (Cartonazo Editores, Casa Katatay, Sarita Cartonera, Viringo Cartonero, Qinti Qartunira)
- Portugal (Bela Cartonera)
- Puerto Rico (Atarraya Cartonera)
- Spain (Aída Cartonera, Cartonera Island, Cartonerita Niñabonita, Cartopiés Cartonera, Ediciones Karakartón, La Verónica Cartonera, Meninas Cartoneras, Paquita Cartonera, Pensaré Cartoneras, Ultramarina Cartonera)
- Uruguay (La Propia Cartonera)
- United States (La Tetra Cartonera, Rosalita Cartonera)
- Venezuela (Pirata Cartonera)
The Cartonera Publishers Database includes digital scans of the covers and title page of the cartonera books held at UW-Madison as well as additional materials such as audio files of interviews to members of several cartonera publishing projects. All the material has been digitized and uploaded with permission from the publishers or interviewees. Updates to this database are done annually but the physical collection continues to grow as we acquire new books.
History of the print collection of cartonera books at UW-Madison
The Cartonera Collection at Memorial Library was started in the spring of 2006 by Ibero-American Studies Bibliographer Paloma Celis Carbajal after meeting in person with members of Eloísa Cartonera during an acquisitions trip to Buenos Aires. Professor Alda Blanco graciously volunteered to bring from Buenos Aires the first 100 books for this collection.
Currently, new titles are sought in a variety of ways; by following their posts in this project’s Facebook group “Libros Cartoneros: Reciclando el paisaje editorial en América Latina”, several cartonera blogs, their Facebook pages, other blogs and websites that talk about them, and also in newspapers, journals, and magazines in print and online.
In most occasions the bibliographer has acquired the books in person. Additionally, this collection has been extremely lucky to have graduate students and faculty volunteer to acquire cartonera books for the library when they travel abroad. Most recently, the collection has been receiving several generous donations of cartonera books directly from the publishers.
Disclaimer: This collection and its database do not hold the entire production of cartonera publishers worldwide.
- Akademia Cartonera: A Primer of Latin American Cartonera Publishers (book, full-text online)
- Cartonera Publishers Research Guide
- Cartoneras Publishers Conference 2009 (website)
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